The casino sector in the Philippines is one of the fastest-growing parts of the Filipino economy. Philippines casinos are popular with locals, but it is tourists who increasingly form the mainstay of most casinos’ clientele. Traditionally, most casinos in the Philippines have been licensed through a state-run company called PAGCOR, but recent liberalization of the rules has allowed private firms to open up casino ventures of their own, encouraged by the growing popularity of gambling in the country.
The largest concentration of Philippines casinos can be found, unsurprisingly, in the capital of the Philippines, Manila. Manila casinos are the biggest and most popular in the country, attracting thousands of visitors every year, many of them travelers from abroad. The capital is very popular with tourists from neighboring East Asian countries, but also further afield, including the USA and Europe. Consequently, casinos are a natural magnet for visitors wanting to relax in what can sometimes be a very crowded and busy city, with a varied and thriving nightlife scene. Manila casinos are famous for their relaxed ambience, and socializing is viewed as being almost as important as gambling. The pace of the games is often quite slow, which acts as a welcome antidote to the frenzied pace of city life.
One of the most popular Philippines casinos was the PAGCOR-owned Subic Bay Legend, situated at Subic Bay north of Manila, on the site of a former US Naval base, but the casino was closed in May 2006. However, there is another casino in the Subic Bay development called the Diamond, with tentative plans to create further casinos in the area. Casino development is further encouraged by the positive business conditions in the Philippines, a cheaper place to do business than alternative countries such as Macao and Japan, and the more relaxed rules on casino ownership in areas like Subic Bay, which have “Special Economic Zone” status to encourage investment.
In addition to these developments, there are several casinos further afield in the Philippines, including the islands of Cebu and Davao. The PanAsia Poker Tour has also hosted its first event in a Philippines casino, the Philippines Open, which is open to poker players from around the world and is held at the Airport Casino Filipino. Philippines casinos are a growing part of the Filipino tourist scene, and they provide an increasingly attractive alternative to casinos in other East Asian countries.