It’s been a busier time than usual in the Philippines gambling market.
With fears of coronavirus continuing to spread, many Chinese gamblers are turning to POGOs, which is a boon for the islands’ gaming industry and tax coffers.
However, locals are also more cautious to travel and mingle in traditional brick-and-mortar casinos within the Philippines, though this is an expected issue and hasn’t been nearly as pervasive – or costly – as it has in Macau.
Naturally, online gambling advocates are using the coronavirus outbreak to promote the comparative safety of online gaming, which is currently illegal in China and which Filipino gamblers cannot access domestically (as POGOs serve the Chinese market almost exclusively and do not accept Philippine natives).
Of course, it isn’t just the coronavirus that’s on the mind of Philippine regulators as they wrestle with a growing call to expand online casino gambling to native residents.
Additional concerns have recently arisen about gambling during wakes and fiesta celebrations, which have now been prohibited in Metro Manila.
According to Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), the state’s official position is to put a stop to this cultural practice of gambling during funerary processions.
Primarily, this decision has been handed down because the tradition of gambling during such times is becoming abused. Funeral shops in the islands are alleged to rent out actual human bodies to hold fake wakes just for the purpose of participating in the erstwhile protected game called sakla.
“I have issued a directive about respecting the dead. … My guidance is that officers will first ask participants to stop the activity, but if they do not comply, police will raid the wake.”
This isn’t the only crackdown on illegal gambling in the region, as operators are also pursuing practitioners of unregulated jeuteng and unlicensed POGOs.
All this comes on the heels of the Philippines’ biggest sports betting season, the tip-off of the PBA’s Philippines Cup, which gets underway on March 1.
While odds on the 2020 PBA campaign have not yet been announced, there is more betting interest than ever on the sport. Unfortunately, MegaSportsWorld, the only sports wagering operator in the Philippines, cannot by law take any action on domestic teams or sports.
Still, bettors can get around this safely and legally by using an offshore betting site like Intertops or 5Dimes. These operators bypass all the traditional problems for Filipino bettors, letting them wager on home-town teams and players while staying safely away from crowds during the current coronavirus scare.
Whether or not the Philippine government will take these issues head-on and legalize online gambling for their people is unclear, but the arguments in favor of that initiative are getting louder and more difficult to counter every single day.