Gambling in Manila: From Binondo To Paranaque

Solaire's Location Map, Paranaque City

Image: Solaire’s Location Map, Paranaque City, the gambling capital                                              of the Philippines (

On March 16, 2013, President Benigno Aquino graced the opening of the US$1.2 billion Solaire Resort and Casino in Paranaque City noting that such an investment will help increase tourist arrivals in the Philippines (4.3 million tourists visited the country in 2012). In addition, President Aquino remarked that Solaire Resort and Casino will provide employment to more Filipinos (in his Philippine Star column dated March 17, 2013, Babe Romualdez, noted that around 50,000 applied for Solaire’s 4,600 jobs).  In conclusion, President Aquino mentioned that “… in the coming years, we will give not just tourists, but businessmen like you, even more reason to believe that, truly, it is more fun in the Philippines.”

Yes, gambling is more fun in the Philippines. According to Cristino Naguiat, boss of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, the opening of Solaire will double the Philippine gaming revenues this 2013 to $2 billion  with potential to reach up to $10 billion and  increase tourist arrivals to about 10 million tourists annually. Wow, a target of $10 billion in gaming revenues certainly sounds quite impressive considering that Las Vegas generated about $6 Billion while the gold-plated gambling mecca, Macau, accounts for about $38 billion. Is the Philippines looking at replicating the success of the IT-BPO industry which last 2012 generated $13 billion in revenues compared with only $3.2 Billion in 2006?  With about 300 gaming tables and 1,200 slot machines, Solaire will keep many gambling tourists busy. Furthermore, the other gambling/casino investors will need to up their own game plan given Solaire’s benchmark. As an example,  the $1.3 Billion Belle Grande Manila Bay is slated to open middle of next year with about 300-320 gaming tables and 1,600 slot machines.  Yes, gambling is more fun in the Philippines especially in Paranaque City – the new gambling capital of the Philippines. If Paranaque is the new gambling capital of the Philippines, what was the gambling capital during the Spanish colonial period?

Illegal Gambling in Late Spanish Colonial Manila

Aside from betting on the state-sponsored lotteries, or the sanctioned horse-racing events and public cockfighting, Filipinos during the Spanish colonial period engaged in betting during card-games with the “monte” and the “panguingue” as the most popular. In his cartographic study of illegal gambling in the Province of Manila during the late Spanish colonial period, Prof. Marco Lagman of the Dept. of Geography of the University of the Philippines, noted that most of the illegal gambling arrests recorded between 1893-1897 by the Spanish police authorities were located in Sta. Cruz and Binondo, Manila. In addition, in a March 17, 2013 email to this author, Prof. Lagman noted that the highest amount of confiscated pot money amounted to almost $23  (mexican dollars as Philippine pesos was known)  taken from five men arrested during a raid along Dolores St., Sta. Cruz.  For these five gamblers, the average stake per person amounted to a whopping $4.6 per gambler. However, betting around $4.6 was more an exception than the rule. The majority of arrests involved the so-called native poor Filipinos, typically no more than five in a group on average, with the pot money reaching about one (1) pesos in 50% of the 195 cases studied. With an average of twenty centavos per gambler (for five persons),  Prof. Lagman noted that the confiscated money pot would be equivalent to about a day’s work for most Filipinos. As such, he concluded that most of the reported illegal gambling arrests involved small-stakes gambling (except for our five gamblers arrested in Dolores St., Sta. Cruz whose average bet of $4.6 would have been equivalent to at least 23 days of wages).

Certainly, the potential revenue lost from such small-stakes illegal gambling can not compare with the income earned by the Spanish colonial government from state lotteries (the equivalent of today’s PCSO’s lotto games).   As an example, the Spanish colonial government earned about 550,000 pesos in state lotteries equivalent to about  4.87% of state revenues in 1884-1885 (see Corpuz, O.D., 1997, An Economic History of the Philippines, p. 190).   

From the reclaimed lands of Chinese Sta. Cruz and Binondo to the reclaimed lands of Paranaque, from illegal card games  conducted clandestinely in residential houses to government endorsed posh mega-casinos, from small-stakes to high stakes gambling, Manila’s gambling scene has changed. Indeed, to quote Solaire’s tagline ,”the game has changed”  in the Philippines. One wonders how happy the spirits of the Filipino card gamblers of Spanish colonial Manila will be with the news that there’s a place in Manila where they will not be arrested for playing their favorite card games, a place where they are more than welcome to lose a day’s wage, nay, even a month’s way, in just one day.


Aquino Inaugurates Solaire Resort and Casino (

Aquino Opens Mega-Casino (

Lagman, Marco Stefan B. ( 2012),  A Preliminary Study on how GIS Know-How Can Spatially Represent The Distribution of Nineteenth Century Illegal Gambling in the Province of Manila (  The curator of Museo Santisima Trinidad would like to thank Prof. Lagman for permission to quote from his study. In addition, Prof. Lagman would like to acknowledge that the cartographic maps included in his online study were done by Neil Tingin.

Gaming Industry Brings Home OFW’s (

Solaire’s Official Website (


~ by Martin Gaerlan on March 17, 2013.

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