China Holds Cards in Online Betting Boom in Philippines

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:

Online casinos have gone on a hiring spree for Chinese nationals, to cater to their biggest group of customers.

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Those customers come from - you guessed it - China.

The promises are irresistible to any young Chinese jobseeker, a work visa in the Philippines, with wages of up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,458) a month in the first year, rising to 14,000 yuan and 17,000 yuan in the second and third years.

To a This Week in Asia reporter, who posed as a jobseeker, the recruiter said: “You will first come here on a tourist visa. The company will handle that for you. We will then get you a work visa. You don’t need a high education qualification to get it.

“Young man, you should make more money,” the recruiter added.

“You don’t need to understand English. There are [mostly] Chinese in the company, so you just need to be able to speak Mandarin,” the recruiter said, adding that the company has about 1,000 employees.

A good number of these recruits will become dealers in live online casinos.  This concept has become so popular that folks around the world are starting their own white label live dealer casino sites that charge a small weekly fee per active customer.

It is crazy to think that, just weeks after Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office, he declared war on Internet gambling.

“Online gaming must stop!” he declared at the time.

Duterte's administration has warmed up to China.

The South China Morning Post reports:

At present, there are 57 Pogos in the Philippines, one of the few places in Asia that has legalised gambling, other than Macau. Last year, online gambling revenue in the Philippines reportedly hit US$184 million, a 14 per cent increase from 2016.

Oriental Game – one of the Philippines’ 57 licensed online gambling operators – occupies three floors at the Ecoplaza building in Makati.

Four years ago, the company had 200 to 300 staff and occupied just one floor. Now it has about 600 staff, 70 per cent of whom are local.

“Our main target is China. That’s why you can see all the brochures we have are all in Chinese,” said Jeffrey Suck, Oriental Game’s digital marketing supervisor, while he smoothed out a pamphlet. “The goal is, in 2020, we want to be No 1 in Asia.”

And then there is the money that the operators are pumping into cities like Manila.

Chinese gaming firms took up 30 per cent of the 775,000 square metres of office space built in the Philippine capital last year.

“These mainland Chinese companies, especially online gaming operators, are driving the office leasing activity, backed by the cheaper rents in the Philippines,” said Janlo de los Reyes, head of research and consultancy at JLL Philippines.

These businesses do not operate without risk however.

Last December, 12 Chinese nationals were arrested and government agents seized 13 computers, 15 mobile phones, and some networking equipment, all allegedly tied to an online gambling business.

This was the second raid of a Chinese illegal operation in a month.


Despite that urging, it appears the pressure may only increase. Although it was reported that 22,600 Chinese were in the Philippines in 2017 with valid working visas, the true number of Chinese working in the Philippines, largely in the online gambling industry, is estimated to be much higher. As a result, there are probes underway to find out the true scope of the problem, as well as urging from senators for operators to focus on hiring and training locally.

Learning the Mandarin language is easier said than done however, and the increasing demand for online gambling in China will be tempting to operators who want to supply for it. Although some senators are calling for strict regulatory oversight, it may force more operations deeper underground, hiding the problem rather than solving it.

- Jagajeet Chiba,

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