Gambling has a long history in the Philippines, going back to pre-colonial times. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, various forms of betting and games of chance were already part of the indigenous cultures. Some tribes had rituals that involved okbet gambling as a form of divination, while others played games using stones, seeds, or shells as bettors.
With the spread of Christianity and the influence of the Western colonial powers, some of these traditional forms of gambling were suppressed or replaced by European games such as cards and roulette. However, many of them survived and evolved into the popular Filipino pastimes that are still enjoyed today, both in informal settings and in licensed casinos and online gambling sites.
One of the most famous examples of traditional Filipino games is called “sakla” or “saklo”. It is a card game that uses a special deck of 31 cards, which includes a joker and a trump suit. Players place bets on who will win the round, based on who has the highest total value of cards. Sakla is often played in festive occasions such as fiestas, weddings, and wakes, and is associated with the culture of “bayanihan”, or communal cooperation.
Another popular game is “tong-its”, which is similar to the more well-known game “rummy”. It uses a standard deck of 52 cards and involves forming sets and runs of cards. Tong-its is played by people of all ages and social classes, from street vendors to politicians, and has been described as a “national obsession”. Some players have even turned professional and earn a living from playing in tournaments or as hired players in gambling dens.
Other examples of traditional Filipino games include “jueteng” (a numbers game based on the results of a daily draw), “pares-pares” (a dice game in which players guess the combination of two dice), and “sungka” (a board game that involves capturing opponents’ pieces by moving your own pieces in a circular pattern).
These games, and many others, have provided the foundation for the thriving casino and gambling culture in the Philippines. Since the 1970s, the government has allowed licensed gambling establishments to operate in special economic zones, such as those in Clark and Subic. In the 1990s, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) was created to regulate and oversee the industry, which has grown rapidly in recent years thanks