The History of Gambling in the Philippines: From Tradition to Today

The history of gambling in the Philippines is a rich tapestry that has evolved over centuries, reflecting the country’s diverse cultural influences and societal changes. From its indigenous roots to the impact of Spanish colonization, and onto the modern era of regulation and online gambling, this narrative tells a compelling story of tradition, adaptation, and transformation.

In this exploration, we delve into the various phases of gambling in the Philippines, from its early origins to its present-day manifestations. Join us on this journey through time and discover how gambling has not only entertained but also shaped Filipino society.

What you will find in this article:

  • Gain insights into the historical roots of gambling practices in the Philippines.
  • Discover how Spanish colonialism influenced and altered indigenous gambling traditions.
  • Explore the journey of regulation and modernization in the Philippine gambling industry.
  • Understand the current landscape of gambling in the Philippines, including its societal impact and popular destinations.

Traditional Forms of Filipino Gambling

Indigenous Gambling Practices

Indigenous Filipino gambling practices have a rich history deeply intertwined with the cultural and spiritual aspects of various indigenous communities. These traditional forms of gambling were not merely recreational but often held sacred significance. Here’s a glimpse into some of these indigenous gambling practices:

Indigenous Gambling Practice Description
Sakla A popular game involving cards and betting, commonly played during fiestas and celebrations.
Juego de Anillo A ring-throwing game where participants aim to land a ring on a hook, often played during local festivals.
Sungka A traditional board game involving shells or pebbles and wooden or bamboo boards, showcasing strategy and skill.
Palo Sebo A pole-climbing contest where participants attempt to reach the top to claim a prize, frequently part of town fiestas.

These indigenous gambling practices were deeply rooted in Filipino culture, reflecting not only the spirit of competition but also a sense of community and celebration.

Spanish Influence on Gambling

The arrival of Spanish colonizers in the Philippines during the 16th century brought about significant changes in gambling practices. The Spanish influence on Filipino gambling was notable, introducing new elements and altering existing traditions. Here are some ways in which Spanish colonization impacted gambling in the Philippines:

  • Card Games: Spanish card games like “Monte” and “Loteria” were introduced, shaping the development of card-based gambling activities.
  • Cockfighting: Although it was present in indigenous cultures, Spanish influence elevated cockfighting to a more organized and widespread form of betting, known as “Sabong.”
  • Religious Festivals: Spanish missionaries integrated gambling into religious festivals, allowing communities to gamble during certain celebrations.
  • Regulation: The Spanish colonial government attempted to regulate gambling activities through various decrees and regulations.

The Spanish era marked a significant shift in the Filipino gambling landscape, with a blend of indigenous traditions and Spanish-influenced practices shaping the course of history.

This combination of narrative, tables, and lists provides a balanced and informative account of traditional Filipino gambling practices and their evolution under Spanish influence.

Modernization and Regulation

The landscape of gambling in the Philippines underwent significant transformations in the modern era, marked by the establishment of regulatory bodies and the emergence of online gambling platforms.


During the PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) era, which began in 1983, the government took a more active role in regulating and promoting the gambling industry. Here are key developments:

Year Milestone
1983 PAGCOR was established as a government-owned corporation.
1986 The first legal casino, Casino Filipino, opened in Manila.
2007 The Entertainment City project aimed to rival Las Vegas.
2016 PAGCOR’s mandate expanded to oversee offshore online gaming.

Notable Points:

  • PAGCOR’s inception marked a shift towards government regulation and revenue generation from gambling.
  • Casino Filipino, a subsidiary of PAGCOR, became a prominent name in the local gaming industry.
  • The Entertainment City project aimed to attract international tourists and boost the Philippine economy.
  • The inclusion of offshore online gaming under PAGCOR’s purview signaled the country’s entry into the global online gambling market.

Online Gambling in the Philippines

Online gambling has seen explosive growth in the Philippines, largely due to the country’s strategic location and regulatory framework. Here’s a breakdown of this phenomenon:

Regulation and Licensing:

  • The Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) industry, regulated by PAGCOR, has attracted numerous foreign companies.
  • POGOs are required to obtain licenses and adhere to strict regulatory standards.

Economic Impact:

  • Online gambling has become a significant contributor to the Philippine economy, generating jobs and revenue.
  • It has boosted real estate demands, particularly in Metro Manila.

Controversies and Challenges:

  • Despite its economic benefits, online gambling has faced controversies, including issues related to tax evasion and social concerns.
  • Balancing economic gains with social responsibility remains a challenge for regulators.

Technological Advancements:

  • The Philippines has seen advancements in online gambling technology, including live dealer games and mobile betting apps.

In summary, the PAGCOR era marked a turning point in Philippine gambling regulation, while online gambling has become a major economic force. However, it also faces various challenges and controversies that continue to shape its development in the country.

Contemporary Gambling Scene

The gambling landscape in the Philippines today is a vibrant mix of traditional and modern influences, encompassing everything from traditional games to state-of-the-art casinos. Let’s explore the two key aspects of the contemporary gambling scene in the Philippines:

Popular Casino Destinations

The Philippines has earned its reputation as a premier gambling destination in Southeast Asia. Below, we take a closer look at some of the most popular casino destinations that draw both local and international visitors:

Destination Unique Features
Metro Manila The nation’s capital boasts a plethora of world-class integrated resorts and casinos, such as Resorts World Manila, City of Dreams, and Okada Manila. These venues offer a wide array of gaming options, entertainment, and fine dining.
Clark Freeport Zone The Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga is home to several casinos, including the Widus Hotel and Casino and Midori Clark Hotel and Casino. Its proximity to the Clark International Airport makes it accessible to tourists.
Entertainment City This gaming and entertainment complex in Parañaque City houses luxurious casinos like Solaire Resort and Casino, City of Dreams Manila, and Okada Manila. It has become a hotspot for high rollers and leisure travelers alike.
Cebu and Davao Beyond Luzon, Cebu and Davao offer notable casino options. Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino and Casino Filipino Davao are popular choices for local residents and tourists in these regions.

The Role of Gambling in Filipino Society

Gambling plays a multifaceted role in Filipino society, influencing various aspects of life. Here are some of the key dimensions in which gambling is deeply integrated into Filipino culture:

  • Entertainment and Leisure: For many Filipinos, gambling serves as a form of entertainment and recreation. Games like mahjong, card games, and bingo are commonly enjoyed during social gatherings, adding an element of fun and camaraderie.
  • Economic Impact: The gambling industry contributes significantly to the Philippine economy. Revenue generated from casinos, both land-based and online, contributes to infrastructure development, tourism, and government programs.
  • Tourism Attraction: The presence of world-class casinos and resorts attracts tourists from around the globe. These establishments offer not only gambling but also entertainment, fine dining, and accommodations, contributing to the country’s tourism sector.
  • Social Concerns: While gambling is widely accepted, it also raises social concerns such as addiction and problem gambling. The government and various organizations have implemented measures to address these issues and promote responsible gambling.

In summary, the contemporary gambling scene in the Philippines is a dynamic blend of entertainment, economic contribution, tourism attraction, and social considerations. It reflects the enduring appeal of gambling in Filipino culture while highlighting the need for responsible gaming practices and regulation.


In conclusion, the history of gambling in the Philippines is a fascinating journey that reflects the country’s rich cultural tapestry and the evolving dynamics of its society. From indigenous gambling practices deeply rooted in tradition to the influence of Spanish colonialism that introduced new forms of wagering, the gambling landscape has transformed significantly over the years.

The modern era witnessed the establishment of PAGCOR, marking a shift towards regulation and government involvement in the industry. The advent of online gambling further reshaped the Filipino gambling scene, making it a major player in the global online gaming industry.

Today, the Philippines boasts popular casino destinations that attract both locals and tourists alike. Gambling has become intertwined with Filipino society, offering entertainment, employment, and revenue generation. However, it also poses challenges related to responsible gaming and social impact.

As the Philippines continues to navigate this dynamic industry, it is essential to strike a balance between economic opportunities and ensuring the well-being of its citizens. The history of gambling in the Philippines serves as a valuable backdrop for understanding its present and shaping its future in the world of gaming and entertainment.