The Increasing Popularity Of Online Gambling in The Philippines

In recent years, Filipinos may have noticed a trend in the gambling scene: A burgeoning number of online casinos for your choosing and enough players to fuel the surging demand.

This rise in popularity of online gambling in the Philippines is reflected in the 2023 report by PAGCOR (the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation), the government-operated regulator for land-based and online casinos in the country, that their revenue from electronic gambling close to doubled the previous year’s.

According to Alejandro H. Tengco, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, there were unprecedented developments in the Philippines e-gaming sector in 2023. These milestones included:

  • A 90% increase in online gaming activities
  • A 92.32% growth in GGR (gross gaming revenues)
  • GGR reaching PHP ₱58.16 billion (approximately USD $992.05 million) for the first time in history of the industry, nearly two-fold from PHP ₱30.24 billion in 2022
  • More than 1,000 licensed e-gaming sites and counting

The 2023 GGR broke the previous record of PHP ₱32.24 billion (approximately USD $549.93 million) in 2019 which was achieved before the global COVID-19 pandemic.

So, what led to this meteoric rise? Let’s look into it and the promise that the starry future holds.

History of online gambling in the Philippines

There exists a rich heritage of gambling in the Philippines since its introduction by the Chinese in the late 1500’s. In the 1560’s, the time of Spanish colonization, gambling became institutionalized with cockpits, card parlors, and billiard halls littering the nation. In the 1800’s, lotteries, horse racing, and casinos were introduced. Gambling became a prevalent hobby. In the 1970’s, the government took steps to regulate the industry by tasking PAGCOR to oversee all forms of gambling, which in turn generated revenue for the government by developing new markets.

For a long time, only land-based casinos were available and were usually located in major cities in luxury hotels. The game changed in the 1990’s with the advent of the Internet, bringing about the existence of online casinos. More gamblers from all walks of life could now enjoy playing with convenience from the comfort of their home.

Today, top Filipinos online casinos like Mega Casino World and MCW Casino offer gaming options that run the gamut. These include:

  • Casino, card, dice, and table games: Slot machines, roulette, poker, blackjack, baccarat, sic bo, craps, mahjong, pai gow
  • Numbers games: Sweepstakes, lotteries, bingo, keno
  • Sports betting: Basketball, boxing / MMA, football, tennis, e-sports, baseball, volleyball, horse racing
  • Cultural gambling: Seasonal perya (fair or carnival) games, sabong (cockfighting), horse fighting, bull fighting, spider wrestling, sakla (local version of tarot cards)

Driving factors for online gambling in the Philippines

On top of this vibrant history, the confluence of the Philippines’ unique societal features contributed significantly to the uptake in online gambling.

Population & economic growth

Being a developing country, the Philippines continues to see increasing population and economic growth. That is how the online casino industry affords opportunities for both players and operators alike. The country’s proximity with China has attracted many Chinese gamblers, investors, and trade. At the same time, Filipinos’ international linguistic abilities, aesthetic, and natural hospitality also appeal to global players as a gambling hub targeting the rising middle class in Asia.

Meanwhile, increasing disposable income has allowed more locals to also partake in this pastime. If not to play, then to provide services that are in increasing demand in the lucrative multi-billion dollar online gambling market, such as online casino dealers and live-stream hosts.

Love for sports & entertainment

It is only natural that a country known for enthusiastic sports devotees and passionate entertainers would take to online gaming like ducks to water. The fiery heart of Filipinos are drawn to the thrilling pace and endless exhilaration that can only come from the speed and diversity of electronic gambling. Not only has this boosted wagering activity and revenue, it also cultivated a thriving sports betting community.

Internet & mobile technology

Digital technology has played a pivotal role in transforming the gambling landscape, making it possible for countless online casinos to mushroom throughout cyberspace. High-speed Internet and live-streaming technology enables users to watch games with crystal clarity and bet in real-time. Increasing processing powers and cloud computing makes impressive graphics and accessible online games on any device.

Algorithms and AI (artificial intelligence) attract players with fair gameplay and dynamic modes of play. The allure of fantasy sports and online casinos is further heightened with VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) enabling players to interact with digital elements in an immersive environment. With the advancement of mobile gaming and social media, this momentum will certainly keep achieving ever greater heights.

PACGOR & changes in regulation

Having a local regulatory body, a robust legislative framework, and trusted payment methods has boosted consumer confidence that online casinos in the Philippines are legitimate. Players can put their trust in licensed platforms such as MCW Casino and Mega Casino World, that have been verified by authorities.

Policy tweaks have further propelled the e-games sector in the Philippines. Further reductions in licensing rates has lowered barriers to entry for many gambling sites to join the market. The government also plans to raise national earnings by launching PAGCOR’s own e-gambling operations to attract wealthy off-shore players, yet again instilling assurance in the staying power of the industry.

COVID-19 pandemic

The global COVID-19 pandemic has indubitably forced many industries across the world to quickly adapt to rapidly-evolving economic conditions, online gambling not excluded. While the Philippines government made the decision in 2020 to allow online betting in brick-and-mortar casinos to cope with the pandemic, at the same time, millions of housebound players took to online gambling in droves to escape the confines of social restrictions. These factors proved to be fertile ground for the proliferation of online gambling platforms.

Increasing Profits

Future of online gambling in the Philippines

Projections for the online gambling market are expecting the following:

  • PHP ₱61.75 billion in revenue in the Philippines in 2024
  • USD $100.90 billion in global revenue in 2024
  • An annual global growth rate of 6.20% (CAGR 2024-2029)
  • Global market volume of USD $136.30 billion by 2029
  • Global number of users amounting to 281.30 million by 2029

With the convergence of various technological trends and cultural factors (access to Internet and digital technology, adoption of mobile gaming, large and young population, government support), the online gambling industry in the Philippines is shaping up to be very promising indeed. Virtual casinos will become increasingly sophisticated, accessible, and engaging. This dynamic industry still holds untapped potential and is likely to flourish in the years to come.

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