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Online gambling in the Philippines is a popular and thriving industry. In fact, a number of foreign workers, players, and operators are currently operating at the country which validates its standing as an ideal hub for online gaming activities. The country is also home to the only licensing jurisdiction in Asia, the First Cagayan, which provide licenses to online casinos. With these recent developments in the country, one cannot help but think that the Philippines is positioned as a stress-free destination for games and casino entertainment.
However, a careful understanding of the existing laws and rules will paint a slightly different online gambling Philippines. Yes, all these developments are on-going and contribute to the economy but these services are offered with certain limits. Specifically, licensed online casinos are not allowed by law to accept real money wagers from players in the Philippines. If you are a Filipino, you are not allowed to play at an online casino that’s licensed by First Cagayan. The legal option available is to play at gaming hubs that are licensed to operate by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
On Presidential Decree No. 1602 and What It Means to Players
The main basis for declaring online gambling legal is an old law published during the time of Ferdinand Marcos, Republic Act No. 1602. This was a law that was signed by Marcos and was made public in 1978. This law was intended by the government to simplify the rules and the penalties that will be assigned to individuals who will violate the gambling laws of the country.
In the opening sentences of the law, it stated that there was an urgent need to give the general public with a clearer understanding of gambling laws. It stated that the previous laws passed by the government like the RA 3063, PD 499 (Cockfighting), and PD No. 1036 (Jai Alai Bookies) have become confusing to many. And this law was designed to set the records straight.
Popular Types of Illegal Gambling in the Country
Under the law, there are a number of gambling activities in the country that are considered as completely illegal by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. Some of these games are Jueteng, Jai Alai, ‘Cara y Cruz (a game that uses a coin), and a number of card-based games like blackjack, Lucky Nine, Poker, Baccarat, and its other derivatives that are popularly played on the streets. These gambling activities are specifically listed on Republic Act No. 1602 particularly on the explanation of penalties. These types of illegal gambling in the Philippines were subject to constant monitoring from the authorities.
Online gambling which includes casino games and online sports betting Philippines activities were soon included in the list due to the interpretations made by some individuals. Since these games online also involve risk and money, the general understanding is that these are included in the different types of illegal gambling in the Philippines.
So for years, online gambling was generally considered a crime in the Philippines. This is the reason why many players are careful not to play at an online casino for fear of being monitored, apprehended, and jailed. This has been a problem for many players in the Philippines who are looking to sign up with an online casino and enjoy the perks that come with.
But it all changed when a complaint was filed in October 2006 against Edgar Lim of British Grand Vision International.
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The Case of Edgar Lim and British Grand Vision International
It was in October 2006 when an individual named Edgar Lim of the British Grand Vision International was hailed to court after the agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (MBI) raided a compound and seized equipment that was believed to be used in ‘illegal gambling’. A case was soon filed against this individual for violating PD 1602.
But in 2012, the case got a major boost when the Pampanga Court of Appeals ruled that online gambling is not a crime, thus releasing Mr Lim from any accountability related to the case filed against him. According to the Court of Appeals, the action of the individual cannot be considered an illegal act. The Court also added that in the ruling of the Department of Justice during that time, it committed grave abuse of discretion by concluding that online gambling is a crime, and it should be punished based on the terms set forth by Presidential Decree 1602.
However, this law has been amended many times since it was first passed in 1978. With a number of changes and amendments to the law, many individuals were confused about how the law can be interpreted. But in the ruling that was released by the Court of Appeals in Pampanga, the amendments and changes on the law did not specify the penalties or punishment for online gambling.
In the published resolution, the court argued that there is no crime when there is no law penalizing it, then online gambling Philippines is not illegal. The court resolution was also a sound rejection to the then action of the Department of Justice where it classified online gambling as an illegal activity in the country. And by filing the charges to the person, it has exceeded its authority. The court also added that the action made by the then Secretary of Justice was a ‘clear and grave abuse of discretion’.
So What’s the Future for Online Casino Players in the Philippines?
Although the ruling was published in 2012, it helped clarify a long-standing case that is important to the online gambling industry in the Philippines. First, the ruling helped clear the against Lim and the company. This means that they are innocent of the charges filed against them. The ruling made by the court can also be considered as a silver lining for the online gambling companies in the Philippines. This ruling can help clear up the ‘grey areas’ in the laws relating to online gambling and can serve as guides too for casino operators on how they should address their legal gambling business in the country.