Cultural Effect: Classic Games & Gambling in the Philippines

How have some of the traditional games in the Philippines affected or influenced modern-day gaming? Which are some of these games? Get answers here!

Gambling in the Philippines

Cultural Influence: Traditional Games and Gambling in Filipino Society

What comes to mind when you think of going to еhe Philippines for a holiday? You would be forgiven for not visualizing a five-star hotel with a casino immediately. Of course, you can use offers such as the GG Bet casino bonus to play at online casinos. However, visiting a luxurious five-star hotel beats any online casino, any day!

This Southeast Asian country hosts over 7500 islands of all sizes and shapes. Snorkeling, island-hopping, or strolling on the beautiful white sandy beaches are some things you’d think of before visiting a casino. Of course, that is if you are not an avid gambler. If you are a frequent casino visitor, you’ll be pleased to know that the Philippines is big on gambling. A report online shows more than eight million tourists visited the country, with 67% of this number visiting a gambling den of some sort. With that said, it, therefore, doesn’t come as a surprise that gambling in the Philippines is a big business. Let us quickly look at how far gambling has come and some of the popular forms of gambling that are native to the country.

History of Gambling in the Philippines

The history of gambling in the Philippines is long and elaborate, dating back over a few centuries. After searching the internet, it wasn’t clear who introduced gambling to the country. However, many sources seem to agree that gambling existed long before the Spanish explorers arrived in 1512. When the Spanish explorers arrived on the Island of Palawan, records show they noted the natives were already betting on cocks fighting. After the Spanish arrived in the Philippines, there was a long period of colonization. Over the next three centuries, gambling, particularly Sabong, became more ingrained in the Filipinos' ways of life. Betting on cocks became a favourite pastime among Filipinos, with different villages hosting Sabong for different occasions.

With the Spanish colonizers around, other forms of gambling flourished, too. Horse racing, card games, lotteries, and billiards were introduced. This promoted gambling within the country, which became a national obsession by the end of the 19th century. In fact, it became so widespread that the Spanish outlawed any form due to its negative effects on the communities. Unfortunately, they did not manage to achieve this.

Americans Regulating Philippines Gambling

Once the Americans took over from the Spaniards, one of their first duties was to try to ban gambling, particularly Sabong. However, this proved to be quite a challenging task. So, instead of fighting the vice, they decided it was better to make some money off gambling rather than ban it. With this, they came up with tax laws on gambling. By the end of the 2nd World War, countries worldwide were pretty much independent – including the Philippines. As such, the Filipinos took over gambling and came up with a body that would be responsible for overseeing all the activities. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) was founded in 1976 to oversee the ten casinos that had already been established. By the end of the 90s, the body was responsible for regulating all forms of gambling in the country, except for the lotteries/sweepstakes. This was left to the Philippines Charitable Office (PCO).

Popular Traditional Gambling Games in the Philippines

Fast forward to 2024, sportsbooks, casinos, and other forms of gambling are as popular in the Philippines as they are elsewhere globally. Now, there are more than 50 casinos in the country, both publicly and privately owned. Walk into any of these establishments, and you’ll be able to play both table and slow games. The country also has three racetracks, which host horse races. And while these forms of gambling exist in the Philippines, they aren’t anywhere close to the culturally significant Sabong.

Sabong in the Philippines

Surprisingly, Sabong is not only legal in the Philippines, but it also happens to be one of the most sought-after forms of betting. After the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, Sabong was introduced online. E-Sabong, as it is commonly referred to nowadays, brought this popular form of pastime closer to Filipinos. In fact, it was so popular that it helped the government net about $11 million (640 million Pesos) per month in the form of taxes. But this popularity came with some shortcomings.

Personal debts spiraled, abductions increased significantly, and the cases of gambling-related societal issues skyrocketed. Even the cock owners started fixing outcomes of different fights for personal gains. This forced the government to officially ban e-Sabong in May 2022. However, betting on the events at the physical matches is still legal and generates about $1 billion for the government.

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