Could Philippines Sports Betting Be In Trouble?

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Duterte speaks to the Philippine people.

Gambling in the Philippines is a somewhat restrictive market. Sports betting options are amongst the most limited for residents, with licensed and regulated offshore sportsbooks being the best source, especially for online betting. President Roger Duterte’s recent statements about gambling could spell trouble for any domestic sports betting expansion.

In a recent cabinet meeting, President Duterte denounced gambling. To quote him, he said, “I hate gambling. I do not want it.” He even called a stop to a $1.5 billion casino expansion project in Metro Manila right after it officially broke ground. Duterte’s reasoning behind the move is that the land-lease agreement is unfavorable. According to reports, the rent payment per month is too low given the length of the lease. In the eyes of the government, this puts the government in a poor position.

Gambling is not new to the area. In fact, the Philippines is considered an up-and-coming gambling site in the Asian market. By the end of 2017, there were nine private casino operations with over 1,400 table games and over 9,000 electronic gaming machines. This translated to an 11.6% in gross gaming revenue to the tune of 176.5 billion pesos.

Duterte’s decision to halt the Landing International contract may not hold any legal weight at this time. Representatives from the ambitious gaming development company stated that until their lease is voided by a court of law, they will continue building. However, it is possible that Duterte uses his executive power to expedite the process of stopping them.

So what does this mean for PH sports betting? Well, it means there won’t be any brick-and-mortar sportsbooks popping up in the Philippines any time soon. Duterte said he would not approve any more casino plans in the country. He is satisfied with the existing locations. Well, satisfied may be the wrong word to use, but he tolerates the existing ones and does not want any more. Since sportsbooks are typically attached to casinos, this does not bode well for sports betting advocates.

This does not mean the possibility of new sportsbooks is gone. It is possible that Duterte changes his tune, or perhaps there will be a change of leadership at some point. For now, residents can legally participate in legal online sports betting through licensed and regulated offshore sportsbooks. Whether or not any more casinos are built in the Metro Manila area remains to be seen, making online betting the more plausible scenario in the Philippines.

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