Gambling in the Philippines: legalization, regulation, major casinos

A strong belief in fate and luck is part of the mentality of Asians, the driving force behind the popularity of gambling in this region of the world. 

Such a high proportion of Asians who gamble is no coincidence. Deep cultural factors not only encourage gambling, but also discourage recourse when it becomes compulsive or addictive behavior.

Another important factor in the popularity of gambling is that Asian cultures pay special attention to superstition, numerology, and the concept of “luck” compared to Western culture. As a result, winning or losing carries a much heavier sense of identity because it can be perceived as a reflection on oneself. Asians believe that fate is preordained by the ancestors, meaning that a person who is lucky at gambling is considered blessed by the gods.

What is PAGCOR

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is a state-owned and controlled corporation created by presidential decree in 1869. PAGCOR is the Philippine government’s largest source of revenue after the IRS and the Bureau of Customs.

PAGCOR can generate revenue that helps stimulate community development projects by regulating gambling and preventing the spread of illegal gambling in the Philippines.

The organization owns 44 state-run Casino Filipino sites, and the agency’s gross gaming revenue last year was 15.9 billion pesos.

PAGCOR is a 100 percent government corporation under the control of the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines.

History of PAGCOR

The state gaming company was created during the martial law years by Presidential Decree (PD) 1067-A, issued by then-President Ferdinand Marcos in response to appeals to the Philippine government to stop the growing proliferation of illegal casinos in various regions of the country.

The law creating PAGCOR was later amended and consolidated under PD 1869, also known as the PAGCOR Charter.

Under its charter, PAGCOR was given a tripartite mandate:

  • Regulate, manage, permit, and license gambling, card games, and number games, particularly casino games in the Philippines;
  • Generate revenue for the Philippine government’s socio-civil and national development programs; 
  • Help promote the Philippine tourism industry.

In June 2007, the Philippine Congress passed Republic Act No. 9487, extending the corporate life of the state gaming company for 25 years with the possibility of renewal for another 25 years and prescribing the following amendments to the PAGCOR Bylaws:

  • PAGCOR may enter into agreements, including joint venture agreements, with any person, firm, association or corporation.
  • Requiring the consent of the local authority that has territorial jurisdiction over the territory selected as the site for any PAGCOR activity.
  • Exclusion of jai alai from PAGCOR operations; and
  • The delineation of regulatory powers and authority over gaming activities covered by other existing franchises, regulatory agencies, or special laws.

Which casinos does PAGCOR manage?

PAGCOR operates nine casino branches in major cities on the three main islands. These branches, collectively named Casino Filipino, are located in popular tourist areas.

AngelesMcArthur Highway, Balibago, Angeles City, Pampanga
BacolodL’Fisher Hotel, 14th cor. Lacson St., Bacolod City
CebuWaterfront Hotel & Casino, Salinas Drive, Lahug, Cebu City
Grand RegalGrand Regal Hotel, Km. 7, Lanang, Davao City
Ilocos Norte365 Plaza, National Highway, Brgy. 1, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte
OlongapoYBC Bldg., 580 Rizal Ave., East Tapinac, Olongapo City
New CoastNew Coast Hotel Manila, 1558 MH Del Pilar cor. Pedro Gil St., Malate, Manila
RonquilloGold City Square, Ronquillo St., Sta. Cruz, Manila
TagaytayE. Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City

PAGCOR also operates 32 satellite casinos in major cities in the Philippines.

Where PAGCOR’s income goes

In accordance with the Bylaws and other applicable laws, PAGCOR’s revenues shall be distributed as follows:

  • 5% of the winnings go to the BIR as a franchise tax;
  • 50% of the 95% balance goes to the National Treasury as the national government’s required revenue share.
  • Of the 50% government share, 5 million pesos a month goes to the Dangerous Drugs Board each month, for a total of 60 million pesos a year;
  • 5% of the balance (after deducting the franchise tax and the revenue share set by the national government) goes to the Philippine Sports Commission to fund sports development programs in the country;
  • 1% of the net income goes to the Claims Board, an agency under the Department of Justice that compensates victims of wrongful detention and prosecution; and
  • Cities that host PAGCOR casinos are allocated fixed amounts for their respective community development projects.

On February 20, 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law RA #11223, also known as the Universal Health Care Act (UHC). Section 37.1b of the Implementing Rules and Regulations provides that 50% of the national government’s share of PAGCOR gaming revenues, as provided in PD 1869 as amended, shall be transferred to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) at the end of each quarter to fund UHC in accordance with the normal budgeting, accounting and auditing rules and Philhealth rules (provided that funds will be used by PhilHealth to improve its benefit packages).

PAGCOR rigorously remits 50% of its state gaming revenues to the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) on a monthly basis.

PAGCOR also funds the Sports Incentives and Benefits Act, which provides monetary rewards for athletes and coaches who win international sporting events.

As a publicly owned and controlled corporation, PAGCOR adheres to RA 7656, also known as the Dividends Act. Thus, it remits at least 50% of its annual net profits to the national government in the form of cash dividends.

In addition to mandatory cash transfers to various government agencies, the state-owned gaming company also actively pursues major corporate social responsibility projects under the leadership of its current government.

PAGCOR’s record revenues

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) achieved another record revenue after its total revenue for the first quarter of 2023 was 17.70 billion pesos, a 42.8% increase over its output of 12.4 billion pesos in the same period last year.

Of the agency’s revenue of 17.70 billion pesos in the first three months of the year, 16.87 billion pesos came from gaming operations. The said amount is 49.43% higher than gaming revenues of 11.29 billion pesos in 2022.

Thanks to PAGCOR’s latest revenue record, the agency was able to invest 10.98 billion pesos in government construction, a huge 50.59% jump over its total contribution of 7.29 billion pesos in the first quarter of 2022. That is, PAGCOR’s revenue of 17.70 billion pesos for Q1 2023 resulted in a 50.59% increase in PAGCOR’s contribution to national construction.

In accordance with PAGCOR’s statute and other regulatory laws, 843.87 million pesos, or 5% of the agency’s total revenue from January through March (16.87 billion pesos), went to the Bureau of Revenue (BIR) as a franchise tax, and half of the remaining 95% or 8 billion pesos went to the National Treasury as a government share. Meanwhile, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) received 15 million pesos.

PAGCOR also transferred a total of 400.84 million pesos to the Philippine Sports Commission to fund the training and preparation of national athletes for various major international sporting events. It also contributed 8.19 million pesos in benefits and incentives for national athletes and coaches.

The agency has also made huge contributions to the Claims Board of the Ministry of Justice (12.16 million pesos), government social-civic programs and its own corporate social responsibility projects (1.58 billion pesos), and to the cities that host Casino Filipino (112 million pesos). 0.92 million).

Philippines gambling regulator explores possibility of selling state-owned casinos

The Philippines expects to get about 80 billion pesos ($1.47 billion) from the sale of dozens of small state casinos, the country’s gaming chief said Tuesday. The Philippines will raise $1.5 billion from the sale of state-run casinos. Gross gaming revenue could return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

Privatization would allow Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. or Pagcor, which also operates casinos, to focus on its role as regulator. Such a plan also came about as the government seeks to increase the revenues of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s sovereign wealth fund.

“We are seriously considering privatizing all the casinos run by Pagcor,” Pagcor Chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco said at the ASEAN Gaming Summit. – We are the only regulatory [body] in the world that not only regulates, but also manages casinos. It’s very ironic that it does.”

Pagcor owns 44 state-run Casino Filipino sites, and the agency’s gross gaming revenue last year was 15.9 billion pesos. According to Tengco, the casinos can be bundled into packages when they are offered to bidders to unlock more value, adding that Pagcor simply rents out the properties where the Casino Filipino sites are located.

The gaming chief hopes to carry out the privatization during his term, which coincides with Marcos’ presidential term through 2028.

The country’s finance minister previously said that the proceeds from privatizing state-run casinos could be used for the planned Maharlika investment fund, which has come under criticism for requiring state banks and the central bank to contribute to the seed fund.

The privatization push comes as the Philippine gaming industry recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Annual gross gaming revenues could return to pre-pandemic levels by next year. The Philippines’ GGR in 2019 was 256.5 billion pesos.

The recovery will be driven by Chinese tourists and thriving new casinos outside of metropolitan Manila, where a four billion dollar integrated resort and casino already operates.

According to Pagcor, the Philippines reported GGR of 214.3 billion pesos in 2022, up from 113.1 billion pesos in 2021.

Game License

A gambling license (GEL) is a permit issued by PAGCOR granting a person the privilege of being employed as a gambling employee in the jurisdiction of the Philippines. It is a prerequisite and permanent requirement for employment in any gambling establishment in the country. No employer may hire and retain a person without a valid license.

The licensee refers to the legal entity that issued the PAGCOR gaming license.

Before hiring or signing an employment contract, the employer must ensure that personnel directly involved in gaming have a valid license:

  1. Full-time and contract employees hired by the employer, including those whose services are split between gaming and non-gaming operations.
  2. Personnel outsourced or hired through employment agencies whose tasks/functions require handling or direct contact with games, equipment and paraphernalia, and casino cash, chips or tokens, such as contract dealers, slot machine specialists, cashiers, bingo ticket sellers, gaming assistants, etc.
  3. Consultants assigned to or involved in gaming operations.

PAGCOR has strictly warned its offshore gambling licensees and accredited service providers to comply with the laws of the Philippines and strictly abide by PAGCOR’s rules and regulations.

What is the largest casino in the Philippines?

Okada Manila is the largest entertainment resort offering its guests and visitors from all over the world a complete entertainment package consisting of a casino floor, one of the world’s largest fountains, luxury hotel rooms, upscale commercial facilities, gourmet restaurants, etc.

The casino at Okada Manila offers the largest selection of slot machines and table games in the entire country. It has about 500 exciting games and 3,000 of the best electronic slot machines that offer the biggest jackpots in the Philippines.

Is online lottery legal in the Philippines?

Not only is online gambling legal in the Philippines, but it also provides the latest and often best gaming experience for players. Online sports betting, casinos, poker and lotteries are legal in the country.

What are the most popular casino games in the Philippines?

Classic table games like baccarat, roulette and blackjack are very popular in the Philippines. Players also like lotteries and sports betting as well as slot machines.

What is the tax on gambling winnings in the Philippines?

Players can buy as many cards as they want, if only to increase their chances of winning. Prizes or winnings are usually given in cash. These winnings, if they exceed 10,000 pesos, are subject to a final tax of 20% in accordance with Section 24 (B) (1) of the National Tax Code. 

How do I deposit and cash out at online casinos in the Philippines?

Philippine online casinos offer a wide range of different supported banking transactions, from bank transfers and credit/debit card payments to e-wallets. 

What is a welcome bonus and how do I get it?

A welcome bonus is an amount awarded to new players. Online casinos use welcome bonuses to attract new players, and the rewards can be incredibly generous. Bonuses come in several types, including no deposit bonuses, match bonuses, and free spins bonuses.

How not to get addicted to gambling

Gambling is extremely addictive, but it’s important that players always keep a cool head when trying their luck at real money games. Here are some tips on how to gamble responsibly to avoid the pitfalls of gambling addiction:

Gambling should always be viewed only as a form of entertainment. Never think of gambling as a way to make money.

Set aside a budget for gambling and make sure you can afford to lose this amount.

Never gamble with money you need for rent, food, or bills.

Don’t try to get your lost money back through gambling. This can quickly lead to a situation that gets out of hand.

Keep a clear head. Avoid drinking alcohol while gambling.

Check out the help and advice available on gambling in your area.

Philippines – Gamblers Anonymous Gamblers Anonymous is an international support program designed to help those struggling with gambling addiction.

KAYA Rehab Philippines This treatment facility in Baguio City offers gambling addiction rehabilitation with the help of specialist counselors, psychologists and therapists.