The Philippines are an island nation of about 100 million people, located in the western part of the Pacific ocean and home to one of the lesser known gambling jurisdictions in the world, the First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation (FCLRC). It was first established in 2003 under the Interactive Gaming Act and covers the gaming activities taking place in the special economic zone of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). The FCLRC is tasked with regulating the land based and online bookmakers that offer sports betting and casino games in the Eastern Asia region, where approximately 2 billion people live. However they do not regulate betting on the Philippine islands, as the state maintains a monopoly on gambling inside the nation. During the last months, a lot of speculation has arisen concerning the future of the various betting firms and casinos licensed by the FCLRC, as Rodrigo Duterte, the President of the Philippines, has tried to crack down on illegal gambling.
First Cagayan Roles and responsibilities
The FCLRC is technically government owned however, as almost any other company in the Cagayan they operate within a high level of autonomy. Every decision regarding the Cagayan Freeport, until recently was made strictly by the CEZA and FCLRC, without the state meddling in their affairs. The key points of the First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation are:
To operate, manage, supervise, establish, own, acquire, purchase, lease tourism-related facilities and activities which shall include games, amusements, recreational sports, internet games, casinos, golf courses and others at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in the Municipality of Santa Ana and the neighboring islands in the Municipality of Aparri, Province of Cagayan; and other areas that may hereafter be included as part of the Zone.
To establish and set up a Network Operation center/Hub with its internet server including web sites, gaming software, application programs, administrative software, hardware, internet, as well as telecommunication connections, collection payment system and toll free telephone operations, all in connection with the development, operation and conduct of internet and gaming enterprises and facilities.
Additionally, the Cagayan Freeport Zone offers extremely low taxes to any foreign investment companies, while at the same time they retain a free port status (similar to Hong Kong, Singapore and Hamburg), meaning that no import fees are imposed. This allows the FCLRC to act as the sole regulator of casino gambling and betting on behalf of CEZA, for the entire Freeport area.
What is a bit confusing however about the regulation of the local gaming market, is the fact that the government run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) enforces a special legal framework on the land based gaming terminals and casinos in the Philippines. Although Philippine citizens are not forbidden from gambling on any casino, be it online or land based, foreign casinos and bookmakers (off shore), technically can not offer their services to local players.
Under Rodrigo Duterte’s presidentship, things have taken a sharp turn, as casinos that used to operate on the Cagayan Freeport, like the PhilWeb Corp. and Leisure & Resorts World Corp were asked to shut down. Additionally, the Chinese tycoon and casino kingpin, Jack Lam, has been labelled as a persona non grata by the Philippine government after allegations of bribery, with Duterte having ordered his arrest. This hostile environment for foreign investors, has led to massive losses on the stock market and ever growing uncertainty among the licensed casinos and bookmakers.
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Types of licenses and licensing procedure
The First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation issues a master license to any interested bookmakers or casinos, under the obligation that they do not allow Philippino players to gamble. Although this excludes the profitable local market, it acts as a gateway to the untapped Southeast Asian region. Up until Duterte’s presidentship, things were pretty straightforward concerning licenses, given that almost any bookmaker could apply and get one, as long as it paid the according fees and did not interfere with Philippino bettors.
However, with the current crackdown on illegal gambling, some casinos have exited the local market (willingly and not) and no new licenses have been issued since the summer of 2016. Rodrigo Duterte has said that the country is on a transitional period and will issue licenses as soon as things clear out. Although there are no signs of concern regarding the stay of most off shore bookies in the Philippines, a sharp increase on the fees required to retain a license, are likely to be ensued.
The standard fees used to be, a one time payment of 26.000$ for sports betting and 40.000$ for casinos, 48.000$ for the first year, plus 60.000$ for every year following that. According to the new gambling law that is currently been drafted, getting a license will cost 200.000$ up front, a warranty of another 250.000$ and 10.000$ per month for each table operating in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport region.
Making a complaint
If you happen to encounter a problem with a Filippino licensed bookie, you can report it on the FCLRC website by filling in the required form at http://www.firstcagayan.com/fclrc/contactus.php. Given that jurisdiction is extremely strict in cases of fraud, if your claim is valid, then you will almost certainly be reimbursed by your bookie.
The main advantages of betting on a Philippine licensed bookie is the fact that it is a stable and well respected regulator that utilizes the latest network and security technologies. Although very few European betting firms hold a FCLRC license, Asian players can benefit from the top quality online services, given that the Philippines have the best servers and internet infrastructure in the region.
There are no real disadvantages for a bettor who wishes to punt on a FCLRC regulated bookie, but this is not the case with local players who are not allowed to punt on foreign bookmakers licensed in their country. The state gaming authority’s monopoly means that local bettors have no choice but to bet on PAGCOR terminals, at extremely low odds.
First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation
26th Floor West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange Center
Exchange Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City
Tel. No. (632) 638-55-56
Fax: (632) 635-09-93
Email: [email protected]