Internet-based gambling in the Philippines is generally lawful, as there is no existing law that declares or prescribes punishment for engaging in online gambling or real money online casino betting. However, House Representative Samuel D Pagdilao Jr. the lone representative of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Party-List, has introduced House Bill 4540 or The Internet Gambling Regulatory Act of 2014, which aims to regulate online gambling in the country.
Representative Pagdilao has raised concerns that online gambling remains unchecked due to the absence of related laws governing the vice. Aside from the absence of a safety net that will prevent minors and those susceptible to the harms posed by gambling, the Philippine gambling market has attracted unscrupulous online gambling operators and cybercrime syndicates in using the country as haven for their illegal operations.
Pagdilao cites as example the many cases filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) during his tenure as CIDG Director, which were dismissed by the courts, simply because there is no law that penalises online gambling operations in the country. The popular basis for the court rulings is on the premise that ‘there is no crime when there is no law penalising it.”
Highlights of House Bill 4540
Representative Pagdilao’s bill defines Internet gaming as the placing of bets or wagers on authorized Internet games offered via a computer network by a licenced operator within the Philippine jurisdiction, to individuals who have registered and established a gaming account with a licenced operator.
The bill proposes giving the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) the authority to award, invalidate, suspend, deny or set conditions to the license application of online gambling operators, as a way of ensuring compliance with the country’s regulatory standards for gambling operations.
The proposed law also seeks to impose responsibility for online gambling operators in ensuring the privacy and protection of online gamblers, and in preventing the manipulation of results, as well as in maintaining the credibility of the services and gaming products offered to online customers.
The recommended age for allowing an individual to engage in online gambling activities in accordance with regulations, is from 18 years and above. In line with this, Pagdilao seeks to impose punishment of five to ten years imprisonment or a fine ranging from PhP5 million to PhP10 million or both, on any licenced operator or employee of that licencee for knowingly allowing a person below 18 years of age to open, maintain or use an online gambling account.
The bill further proposes the imposition of penalties of five (5) to ten (10) years imprisonment or a fine of PhP 100,000, or both” upon any parent, guardian or person who has moral authority or ascendancy over a minor or incapacitated person, who induces or causes them to commit any of the offenses punishable under the proposed law.”
Another issue pointed out by the ACT-CIS Party-House Representative is the lack of available data that show the amount of revenue generated by the Internet-based gambling operations, as this could deprive the Philippine government related revenues derived from this type of gambling business.