Philippines

There are plenty of people in the Philippines who play online poker at a variety of online sites, and it appears that they are breaking no laws in doing so. In fact, a recent court ruling that showed that Filipino law has some gaping holes when it comes to online gambling – holes that we wouldn’t be surprised to be patched up sometime in the near future. For now many reputable and safe poker rooms accept players from the Philippines. Let’s look at them now.

Best Poker Sites in the Philippines

Rank Site Download Mac Linux Bonus Visit Site
1 888 Poker $600 www.888poker.comRead Review
2 Bet365 Poker www.bet365.comRead Review

Online Poker Law in the Philippines

Whether or not it was the government’s original intention, it appears that playing online poker is perfectly legal, and that players can safely play on any site that accepts Filipino players. In fact, it’s even apparently legal to operate an online casino or poker room in the country – but more on that in a bit.

Most gambling – both live and online – is controlled by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). This state run gaming firm is responsible for operating and licensing the land-based casinos, slot clubs, and bingo parlors throughout the Philippines, and also has the ability to offer “e-games” at cafes around the country. In addition, PAGCOR runs an online casino site that offers everything from sports betting to poker.

In the eyes of the Philippine government, it was likely intended for PAGCOR (with a couple of special regional exceptions) to provide all of the online gambling in the country. Of course, players were able to access poker and casino sites hosted in other countries, but the government has never done much to stop this from occurring.

However, the Filipino government did take exception to operators inside the country attempting to run what they deemed as illegal online gambling operations. Perhaps the most dramatic case of this nature came in 2006, when a large amount of equipment was seized as Edgar Lim was indicted for illegal gambling. Lim allegedly ran a virtual casino in Angeles City.

However, in 2012, the Court of Appeals in Pampanga found that there were no laws actually making it illegal for Lim (or anyone else) to run an online gambling site. While the government had attempted to prosecute the case by using Presidential Decree 1602, the court found that nothing in PD 1602 specified online casinos as being an illegal form of gambling. In the ruling, the court simply said that “there is no crime when there is no law penalizing it.”

With that in mind, there’s clearly a lot of uncertainty about online gambling laws in the Philippines, and as we’ll discuss in the future outlook section below, it’s possible that the government reaction to this could result in increased clarity – for better or worse. But for the time being, it is clear that players can participate in online poker without running afoul of any laws.

Online Poker Deposits in the Philippines

One area which can be a little daunting for Filipino poker players is making deposits. That’s not to say that it’s impossible, but rather that your options are likely to be somewhat limited at foreign-operated poker sites. Most of the options related to banking are unavailable, and many major e-wallet sites do not work within the Philippines, either.

That leaves credit and debit cards as the most widely-used options in the country. Both Visa and MasterCard-branded cards are likely to be useable at most online poker sites accepting Filipino players. Some smaller e-wallet sites or prepaid options may also be available, but these are less common than in most other countries.

Filipino Online Poker Taxes

It appears that according to the National Internal Revenue Code of the Philippines, gambling winnings are taxable – though not at a particularly outrageous rate. In most cases, gambling winnings appear to be taxed at a 5% rate for winnings below 10,000 pesos (PHP), while winnings above 10,000 PHP carry a 20% tax rate. The law does make an exemption for winnings made through the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes and Lotto are tax exempt. If you’re unsure about whether or not you need to pay taxes on your online poker winnings, we recommend talking to an accountant to ensure you pay at the correct rates.

Live Poker in the Philippines

The Philippines is home to a lively gambling scene, with dozens of casinos and gambling clubs located throughout the country. Most of these casinos are operated by PAGCOR, and are open to all players, while in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport, only foreigners are allowed to play in the casinos.

This has led to a rather lively poker scene in the country. For a time, PokerStars had even set up a Filipino Poker Tour that had several televised events in Manila and Cebu. While the FPT is no longer in operation, that hasn’t slowed down the progress of live poker in the country, as Manila has hosted three Asia Pacific Poker Tour events in the last five years, while Cebu has hosted two of its own. Even boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has gotten into the act, helping to promote poker events in the country – most recently, the Manny Pacquiao World Poker Event in Malate.

Future Outlook for Filipino Online Poker

Earlier, we wrote about the recent decision that found that online gambling wasn’t illegal in the Philippines – even from the perspective of operators that the government didn’t intend to allow to run unlicensed sites inside the country. As you might imagine, this did not go over well with many government and police officials, who noted that this would make it difficult to police online gambling operations.

While nothing specific has been proposed yet, this series of events makes it likely that the Filipino government will give online gambling a hard look in the coming months and years. How this will impact the online poker scene is difficult to guess; the country could make an effort to ban the practice for all but PAGCOR, or they could follow the lead of several European countries by taking license applications from foreign operators interested in remaining active in the country. In any case, it would be smart for anyone playing online poker from the Philippines to keep an eye on government actions in the near future to see which way the winds might be blowing.