PAGCOR Ramps Up Efforts Against Illegal Philippine Gambling Operators

As the new Philippine Presidential administration prepares to take over, it appears that the nation’s anti-e-Sabong initiative will continue to be prioritized.

As the massively popular game has been pushed from the regulated space back to the black market, the potential for more abuses – abuses that will no doubt be along the same lines as (or possibly even more egregious than) the scandal that recently got legal online sabong banned in the first place – is ironically even higher than it was when Internet cockfighting was under the umbrella of PAGCOR oversight.

This, of course, is to be expected.

Anytime a popular market is pushed to the fringes or publicly shunned by the powers that be, the potential for that market to rage like an unchecked forest fire is pretty high.

Now, to be sure, such isn’t always the case. State regulation isn’t necessarily the only thing that separates legitimate gambling operations from illegitimate ones.

There are plenty of legal and legit online casinos in the Philippines that operate outside the umbrella of PAGCOR.

These venues are hosted offshore and aren’t subject to Philippine governance, and they abide by a set of international trade laws and standards to ensure that players get a fair shake and a traditional (albeit technologically advanced) casino experience.

Naturally, player safety is the chief concern societally when it comes to unregulated online casinos in the Philippines. And if you use established offshore operators (BetOnline AG, MyBookie AG, SuperSlots AG, Everygame EU, etc.), player safety isn’t something you need to worry about.

These sites don’t extend credit to players, which means there’s no model to “go after” players who don’t “pay up.” This is a function of the fact that these businesses are strictly online and operate from literal worlds away.

Such venues have no local physical facilities, and they don’t want them.

That said, when Filipinos gamble with Philippine-based underground or local black market online gambling operators, they run the risk of running afoul of their vendors’ often draconian “rules.”

Plus, there are scores of associated loan sharks out there supporting local black market gaming enterprises, preying on – and then punishing – the vulnerable.

This is why the local gambling underground is illegal while the offshore betting market remains a lawful endeavor for players in the islands.

For the Philippine government, another reason to get a handle on the situation (pun intended) is that the local illegal Philippine gambling sector represents a tremendous loss for the state in terms of revenue generation. The state is missing out on potential revenues in the trillions of pesos.

Frankly, that’s just bad management.

By most accounts, gambling in the Philippines has been practiced since at least the 1500s, and it’s not going anywhere. Culturally, gambling is here to stay.

That’s why – according to Jade Entertainment CEO Joe Pisano – the answer lies in opening up access to the kinds of expansive online markets that compete with regulated Philippine gambling options:

“The illegal gambling market could now be in the trillions of pesos annually and the country is not reaping the benefit of that income and consumers are not being protected. …

In this age, most people live for pleasure and entertainment. Where gaming is normalized and frequently practiced, it has become a significant large-scale business.

The general public, social media platforms, and payment gateways can assist the government to implement laws and eradicate the illegal operators, only then the country can fully reap the fruits of its earning power.”

Again, it’s important to note that Pisano is talking about shutting down the explicitly illegal in-country operations, not the explicitly legal offshore operations.

While the spirit of his argument surely encompasses a desire to get rid of legit online casinos, too (he is the CEO of a casino software company that doesn’t do business with these particular vendors, after all), that’s an entirely different proposal – one that the state won’t approach before (or likely even after) it solves the illegal gambling problem in its own backyard.

However, one thing really stands out about Pisano’s calls to action, which focus on using the law to shut down illicit gambling operators:

It focuses on using the law to shut down illicit gambling operators.

Instead, we propose the following novel and revolutionary alternative:

PAGCOR – along with Philippine lawmakers in Congress – should encourage a domestic market that simply offers a better and more comprehensive product with which black market operators could ever hope to compete.

If players have better state-run options, they’ll choose them. This has been borne out in the United States as gambling has expanded online since 2018.

In those states with legal online casino gambling, legal online sports betting, and legal online poker available to all, the underground gaming markets have all but dried up.

The only remaining audiences for “local bookies” and unregulated physical card rooms and gambling houses are those players who are legally precluded from gambling or those who do business with usury agents in order to gamble beyond their means.

These sorts of players will “fall through the cracks” in the Philippines, too. But in simply making a compelling competing product, PAGCOR and its allies can muscle out the competition using the free market.

It’s a much safer and more self-policing way in the end, and resources saved from this approach can then be better spent on dealing with the fringe cases described above.

As for legal offshore casinos and gambling sites, as we said, that’s another issue.

These sites are primarily for players who want to gamble with Bitcoin and other kinds of cryptocurrency, as well as those who – for whatever reason – wish to keep their lawful financial activities as private as possible.

It’s not impossible that the Philippine government will eventually go after these legit, long-lived online gaming venues, but it’s highly improbable.

As long as the Philippine government takes care of the seedy underground gaming market inside the country’s borders – particularly if done via “bloodless coup” on the strength of a compelling competing online product available to more than just “VIP” players – the competition from offshore sites will most likely be accepted as the simple “cost of doing business.”