We can live without ‘lotto’ but not without gambling

By: Alex P. Vidal

“The world is like a reverse casino. In a casino, if you gamble long enough, you’re certainly going to lose. But in the real world, where the only thing you’re gambling is, say, your time or your embarrassment, then the more stuff you do, the more you give luck a chance to find you.” – Scott Adams


ONE of the most famous gambling icons in the Philippines is an Ilonggo businessman who owns several businesses in Iloilo, Negros, and Cebu.

Even before the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) was institutionalized, Filipinos were already agog over different types of gambling, he once insisted.

“Gambling can become a form of genuine entertainment if professionalized and regulated,” quipped the Ilonggo businessmen, who helped build one of the most modern cockpit stadiums in Asia.

He will probably agree with us that with or without the gaming operations of the PCSO, Filipinos will continue to engage in gambling–in whatever means.

In fact, we can live without PCSO and “lotto”, but we can’t live without gambling, which has become one of our most favorite past times and vices since time immemorial.

PCSO operations, which have been ordered suspended by President Duterte, are limited to the numbers game.

There are certain gambling activities in the Philippines that are more popular or “addictive” than others which even the broad social and economic theories failed to explain why.

Filipinos engage in gambling primarily for economic reasons.




Most Pinoy gambling addicts always want a quick-fix solution to poverty; they believe that if they get luckier their basic economic needs will be answered; their financial woes will be given immediate solution.

From sabong or cockfighting to card games and jueteng, Filipino gamblers don’t have holidays.

If they don’t have cash for gambling, they borrow and steal, if necessary.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde was only stating the obvious when he declared recently that he saw a possible resurgence of jueteng and other illegal numbers games now that the PCSO gaming operations have been halted.

Several surveys of gambling have shown that there are a broad range of motivational factors that are central to gambling, and that attitudes towards gambling are positively related to availability and cultural acceptability.

Dr. Mark D. Griffiths of Psychology Today says variations in gambling preferences are thought to result from both differences in accessibility and motivation. Older people tend to choose activities that minimize the need for complex decision-making or concentration (e.g., bingo, slot machines), whereas gender differences have been attributed to a number of factors, including variations in sex-role socialization, cultural differences and theories of motivation.

Variations in motivation are also frequently observed among people who participate in the same gambling activity.

For example, Griffiths explains, slot machine players may gamble to win money, for enjoyment and excitement, to socialize and to escape negative feelings. Some people gamble for one reason only, whereas others gamble for a variety of reasons. A further complexity is that people’s motivations for gambling have a strong temporal dimension; that is, they do not remain stable over time.




As people progress from social to regular and finally to excessive gambling, there are often significant changes in their reasons for gambling.

Whereas a person might have initially gambled to obtain enjoyment, excitement, and socialization, the progression to problem gambling is almost always accompanied by an increased preoccupation with winning money and chasing losses, adds Griffiths.

“Gambling is clearly a multifaceted rather than unitary phenomenon. Consequently, many factors may come into play in various ways and at different levels of analysis (e.g., biological, social or psychological),” he emphasizes.

“Theories may be complementary rather than mutually exclusive, which suggests that limitations of individual theories might be overcome through the combination of ideas from different perspectives.

“This has often been discussed before in terms of recommendations for an eclectic approach to gambling or a distinction between proximal and distal influences upon gambling.

“However, for the most part, such discussions have been descriptive rather than analytical, and so far, few attempts have been made to explain why an adherence to singular perspectives is untenable.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo).