A Tale Of Two Archipelagos: Philippines Says Hello To iGaming But Indonesia Says No No

It’s a tale of two archipelagos. The iGaming course of ASEAN neighbours The Philippines and Indonesia, the two biggest island nations in the world, couldn’t be more different.

While The Philippines, under the leadership of President “Bongbong” Ferdinand Marcos Jnr., embraces gambling reform, gaming liberalisation and the rolling thunder of iGaming; larger Indonesia, further south in the western Pacific Ocean tries to eradicate the perceived “threat” of digital betting by outright ban and eradication.

This week lawyer Wilma Eisma (pictured below, right) is settling into her new role as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), the first woman to hold the key positions in the national gambling industry monopoly and regulatory body.

“We are happy to welcome [her] as our President and COO. We know she will be a great asset, and her vast experience in both the government and private sectors will surely be put to good use here,” said PAGCOR Chair Alejandro Tengco, hitherto the power behind the PAGCOR throne.


Meantime, Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, population 275.5 million people, has announced a draconian crackdown on iGaming.

Traditional land-based gambling; embracing bingo, card rooms, casinos and sports betting, et al; has been banned in the nation of over 18,000 islands and islets since 1974, although off-shore gaming sites have been accepting Indonesian registrations globally.

But now this is all set to change.

In the last 12-months Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kominfo), responsible for internet censorship, information affairs and communications, has blocked access to an estimated one million forms of gambling-related online content.

And Kominfo Minister Budi Arie Setiadi is set to turn the screw ever tighter.

Backed by Indonesia’s strict Islamic laws, Setiadi has announced the formation of an elite anti-gambling task force that aims to totally eradicate iGaming from the nation.

Task Force

“This week we will decide on steps to form an integrated task force in the context of eradicating online gambling,” said Minister Setiadi.

“Gambling is illegal by law, so strengthening [eradication] measures need to be carried out effectively.

“The Ministry of Communication and Information will focus on withdrawing and taking down online gambling sites, while the enforcement aspect will be handed over to law enforcement officials.”

Traditional Cock-fighting In The Philippines

Unlike Indonesia, The Philippines–already home to thousands of semi-clandestine off-shore gaming providers, known as POGOs–has decided to deepen its relationship with online gambling by a stated regime of taxation, regulation and privatisation.

In its most recent Financial Year, ending September 2023, PAGCOR, which operates 41 land casinos and gaming parlours in the nation, posted annual revenue of the equivalent of US$980 million, up 42.8 percent year-on-year.

PAGCOR Chair Tengco told the last ASEAN Gaming Summit: “We are seriously considering privatisation of all PAGCOR-operated casinos.

“It is my hope we will be able to implement privatisation during my term [which ends in 2028].”

With the Filipino gambling scene further boosted by the post-pandemic return of Chinese, Thai and South Korean “whales”, the pro-gaming posture of President Bongbong Marcos is further cause for optimism.

Plans are well underway for PAGCOR to launch its very own online casino, while regulatory oversight of the controversial off-shore POGOs has been “intensified”.

The Philippines may have come to the regulated iGaming party relatively late but as they say if you aim to win the lottery: Don’t forget to buy a ticket!

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