Online casinos have grown in popularity across the world, nowhere more so than the Philippines, where there are a very large number of online casinos situated within the country. The legal situation for gambling in the Philippines is an odd one though, with a state owned licensing agency, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation or PAGCOR, which controls all forms of gambling within the country’s borders, apart from one region, the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport situated on the northeastern tip of the country which is allowed to issues its own gambling licenses and uses different criteria to award them.
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Online Casinos are legal wherever they are situated within the country, making it the only country in Asia that licenses online casinos, although in the both Cagayan region and those falling under PAGCOR Filipinos were not legally allowed to use these online casinos from their homes until recently, where a specific online casino was set up just for native Filipinos.
With all casinos tightly controlled and monitored by the licensees, Philippines online Casinos can be considered a safe place for gambling, offering some peace of mind for the online player. It should be noted that PAGCOR itself actually owns and runs many casinos, including some online, and as a government backed entity there a built in sense of security there that would be difficult to find anywhere else.
In terms of legality, any online Philippines Casino that bears the PAGCOR license is fully approved and OK to use, however it must be remembered, as with all online gambling, it is the law of your own country of residence at the time you are playing the games that determines the legality of your activities, not that of the casino you are using. In other words, if it is illegal for you to gamble online where you are, it will be illegal for you to gamble online wherever the casino you are using is situated.
Choosing an Online Casino in the Philippines
When looking for a suitable casino in the Philippines there are a few things to consider, here we will discuss the five most important aspects to take a look at.
1.) Legality - It is essential to ensure that the casino is both licensed and accredited by PAGCOR or the Cagayan licensing authorities, depending on where it is situated. There are a couple of reasons for this, firstly accreditation means that the casino has been checked and its owners verified, so you have some level of security before you start, which in the often wild internet world, is always a good thing. Secondly, not being licensed is illegal, so the casino is operating outside of the law. Now, it may be just me, but anyone who is prepared to run a business outside of the law is probably not someone I would trust with my money.
2.) Finances - Another aspect of the casino to check is the payment and withdrawal structure, to make sure that they accept your preferred method of payment of course, but to also check on withdrawal fees, some casinos have higher fees for certain payment systems, and this can mean both depositing and withdrawing money can prove expensive. When checking on the payment systems it is also worth looking at any payment or withdrawal delays to get a clearer picture of how easy or difficult it will prove to move money around using the payment method you want.
3.) Bonuses – this is a major contributor for many people, how much or what kind of sign up bonuses get offered for that first deposit. How much is not the only thing to check though, there are restrictions on all online bonuses whatever casino they are from, usually a percentage value of the bonus (300% as an example) you have play in games before you can make a withdrawal. Obviously this should be considered along with the amount, to get a clearer picture of how useful those bonuses actually are. A large bonus that requires a huge play through value is not necessarily the best option, a smaller bonus with a much lower requirements before you can make withdrawals could prove more useful to a player.
4.) The Games – It may seem far down the list for some, but making sure your casino is legal and easy to get your money in and out of are important aspects of narrowing the search down, however ultimately casino games are what you want to play, so choosing a casino that includes all of your favorites is important, a casino where you cannot play the games you want to is no good at all! Whilst Roulette and Blackjack are fairly standard, it is often the types of slot games that can be the decider, or some people may really like the video roulette with a real person spinning a real wheel and not be as fond of the digitally animated games. Check out everything that is available, or not, before committing to a casino.
5.) Reviews – It is always worth checking out some reviews of the casino you have picked out to make sure everything is OK, especially look out for games that never seem to pay out or people having difficulty withdrawing money, wither should be a red flag on the choice and look for an alternative.
Facts about the situation of online casinos in the Philippines
Online gambling itself, and online casinos in the Philippines are surrounded by many myths, here are some facts about Philippine casinos you may not know.
1.) The Philippines is the only country in Asia to license Online Casinos. This may seem radical but the Philippines is in a unique situation, with a society well used to gambling as part of the social culture and casino licensing and accreditation carried out by a government owned organization, there is a desire for the product and the means to control it all in place. Regulation is tight, but that generally means the casinos themselves are well ran and reliable.
2.) The licensing agency PAGCOR is second only to the government tax department for contribution to the economy, it employs over 11,000 people in numerous facilities including real world casinos and various e-games cafes that house online casino games and resemble an internet café. Despite not being able to play most online casinos at home, Filipinos are spending 1.38 Billion Filipino Pesos a year on online gambling. With the introduction of more online games for Filipinos to play, this will likely rise significantly over the coming years.
3.) For the majority of the Philippines, there is only one online Casino creator, Philweb, in partnership with PAGCOR. In Cagayan, there are over 70 different casino providers all operating, none of which the locals can use, for online play they are restricted to the e-games cafes by law apart from the new Philweb project. Cagayan is host to most of the larger online casino companies that serve Asia, and operate in identical manner to the large international casinos we have seen elsewhere.
4.) Online casinos in the Philippines are banned from providing three games, Last Two, Jueteng and Masiao by law. They are free to provide any other game, and indeed are well known for the video Roulette games that has a live table spun in real time as part of the online game, and slot machines, which are incredibly popular in the e-games stations. There are currently over 250 variations of the slot machine game available in online casinos from the Philippines, making them by far the most played games.
5.) Part of the licensing agreement for Casinos requires that they have enough capital to cover the casinos obligations, and requires account balances and winnings to be paid promptly. This makes government licensed casinos very safe places to put your money and makes them some of the most tightly regulated casinos around. For security and peace of mind online casinos in the Philippines make a lot of sense.
PAGCOR, the organization, its casinos and its online casinos
Second only to the Tax authority in terms of revenue contributions to the Philippines economy, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation are a government owned corporation who are the sole license issuer for gaming and casinos within the country, with the exclusion of the Cagayan Freeport. It both operates as the industry caretaker and runs its own gambling venues both physical and through its e-games stations, online.
Through these activities it employs more than 11,000 people and operates 11 different casinos within the country, along with 180 bingo parlors and the e-games cafes, which allow legal access to the online casino games, of which there are more than 250.
The company is under direct control of the office of the President of the Philippines, and it has a board structure akin to most large companies. It was recently awarded a further 25 years of exclusivity in relation to licensing and regulating the gambling industry within the Philippines and to enter into joint ventures for projects at Entertainment City, near Manila.
The major casinos operated by PAGCOR are to be found within some of the largest hotels in the country, where they offer a traditional range of casino games such as Baccarat, Roulette and Black Jack, along with more popular regional games such as Pai-Gow and Sic Bo. These facilities generally operate 24 hours a day seven days a week, and are considered some of the best casinos available in the country. In addition, PAGCOR also runs 8 slot machine clubs, these are members only VIP style clubs. PAGCOR recently released footage of players cheating one of their casinos for millions of pesos, which can be seen here.
The online portion of PAGCOR is mainly restricted to the e-games cafes, some of which are housed in permanent sites, others of which are however portable buildings fitted out with computers and cashier services that are transported around if revenue falls at a given location. These e-games cafes offer a variety of online casino games, and as the only legal provider of such services to Filipinos, PAGCOR, via its partner Philweb, who developed these, have found them very popular and profitable.
Some of these e-games cafes are ran on a franchise basis, with the franchisee having the option of one of the portable units or renting a more permanent site for their endeavor. There are strict rules about placement of any style of these e-games cafes, ensuring they are not placed near educational facilities or religious buildings.
As we can see, the Philippines offers an interesting choice for online casinos, providing a broad range of venues from within Cagayan Freeport or the PAGCOR regulated rest of the country. With regulation so tight the casinos here do provide peace of mind and fair games, which are always good things to help make playing more enjoyable, at least in my experience. Once you get the legal situation clear, and assess whether your facility will be approved by PAGCOR or the Cagayan Freeport authorities, you can find a plethora of great online casinos in the Philippines to enjoy, without worrying about if you can legally play them, or whether they are going to be around tomorrow and not run off with your money.
In terms of choice, for online casinos Cagayan is the place to go, all the big providers operate sites from the area and offer the same broad choice of games, offers and bonuses as they do in other locations across the world.
The Philippines is a great place to look for online casinos, with great bonuses and great games.