Some names and places have been changed to protect identities in this true story.
I recently got a job as Customer Experience Manager at a yet to be launched sportsbook. First up there was a 2 week work trip to Manila to set up things like the company registration, open a business bank account, apply for a gambling license, rent a combined house/office, hire customer service staff et cetera.
The Philippines is a great jurisdiction for new sportsbooks; the costs are low, human resources in Manila are good and licensing is easier than most places. There are some top quality operators like SBOBET already based there.
I met the boss. Mark, for the first time at the hotel In Manila. The first thing we discussed was our taxis from the airport. I had googled it and read that to get a fair priced ($7) metered taxi you have to walk upstairs from arrivals to departures and get in a taxi that is dropping people off. Other than that only special airport taxis that cost about $15 were allowed. I also asked one of the locals on the flight about it, he confirmed this and we took the taxi together, he insisted on paying the $7.
Mark on the other hand had paid $83! $63 for the fair, because the driver showed him a piece of paper with a list of places and prices , $10 for a tip to the driver and $10 for a tip to “a policeman” (security guard) who “helped me find the taxi”. He had been scammed in his first 10 minutes.
Scam sportsbook license
The first work item we had to discuss was the meeting with our lawyer the next day. I had seen the email exchange to set up this meeting and had expressed my concerns.
Mark had found the lawyer, named Reginald, online and swore by his legitimacy because of the information on his Upwork profile, despite the fact that his name did not appear on the Philippine bar registry.
Reginald suggested the company get our bookmaking license from Filbis, Quezon City’s (Quezon City is also where his office was) master licenser. This was a problem because there is only one body authorized to grant global e-gaming licenses in the Philippines, First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation (FCLRC). There was a law passed making them the monopoly licensor, all the Philippines based sportsbooks we knew were licensed with them, they had a professional and thorough website and there were many articles and resources online confirming all of this.
On the other hand none of us had ever heard of “Filbis” we could find no sportsbooks operating under their license and there are no Google search results for them! The Filipino staff member we had already hired who had experience working for locally licensed sportsbooks confirmed all of this.
The legitimate First Cagayan sportsbook license would be $40,000 per year plus 3% tax and needed a lot of paperwork. Whereas a Filbis license was $20,000 per year plus 1% tax. Because of Reginald’s contacts, it could be done quickly with paperwork that he himself could get us! This obvious scam sounded great to Mark and he had already decided what license the company would get.
During the meeting, I asked probing questions and Reginald’s answers were always inadequate and non-specific. When I ask “I read First Cagayan is the sole licenser for e-gaming in the Philippines,” he said, “The national laws only apply to Filipino gamblers… local governments regulate foreign operators based on a patchwork of statutes and local regulations”.
When I asked, “Why are there no sportsbooks currently using this license?” Reginald replied, “of course there are! But they are Korean and Japanese so their website and all documents are in Korean or Japanese language”.
These answers greatly pleased Mark and at the end of the meeting Reginald said “great news, the President of Filbis will be here in 20 minutes and we can submit the sportsbook license application then”. He started chatting to Mark about Football, keeping him happily distracted until the contracts would arrive. This was too much for me and I spoke with Mark in private.
Mark said, “This is going even better than I expected”. I looked at him in amazement. I had been stressing about getting a junk license as I would be living in the company house and have my name on company documents. I asked Mark “Do you think this is a legit sportsbook license or it could be a junk license but you’re okay with that?” he replied “I thought it could be a junk license but anything that gets us operating is fine”.
I warned Mark “I think we can expect further complications with this license, like we pay the $20,000 and then in a few months Reginald calls and says there is a problem with one of the documents, we need to re-submit it which will cost another $4000″.
I also explained we could get shakedowns from the local police operating with this license. They might come to the house and say “We will shut you down if you don’t pay us a $2000 on-the-spot fine”.
Then there are the national authorities who could close us down, not to get a bribe but to actually do their job, because we are operating without a valid sportsbook license. Mark answered, “We will have this license. We can show we tried to do the right thing, anyway they want business here”.
The President and Secretary of Filbis arrived and gave us their business card, it had no physical address and an @yahoo.com email. Their tactic was to pump up Mark’s ego by asking him simple questions and then acting very impressed and excited about his answers. The Secretary said their philosophy was “If you make money, we make money” which excited Mark greatly and the Filbis guys then stood up to fist-pump him across the table. Yes really, they were fist-pumping!
We sat with Mark and me on one side of the table and the President and Secretary of Filbis on the other side. When I asked a question, like what are our requirements under the sportsbook license, they did a trick where the one sitting opposite Mark would talk to me and the one sitting opposite me would talk to Mark so we were all diagonally talking across each other and could not make sense of anything.
They did explain that one requirement was that we had to host the site on their approved IT provider, called Bandwidth Town, which had their office in the same building as Reginald’s office, where we were.
Mark was so happy with these gentlemen he said he wanted to pay 2% profit as 1% was not enough to help the people in their area, they shouted their appreciation and stood up to fist pump. I had to join in the fist-pumping which I found degrading, in case they thought I was as much a fool as Mark.
Against my advice, Mark signed the application and agreement then and there and transferred $20,000 that night.
At the end of the meeting with everyone still present Mark got out two $20 and a $5 (the lawyer’s rate was $45 per hour) in cash and held it out to Reginald. Everyone was embarrassed, Reginald just said “No you don’t have to…my secretary will…” but Mark insisted he takes it. As we left Mark shook his head, smiled and said “What top blokes, mate those were NOT scammers!”
Filipino staff and home office
Mark had hired 2 Filipinos from Upwork, one as a bookmaker and one to help with IT. He thought these were great hires because it turns out the IT guy was also a drug dealer and a pimp so he had a local source for dope. Mark also hired him to develop a pay-per-view sex cam chat site he is launching soon.
The bookmaker was a former armed rebel who had lived in the mountains with an AK47 and a green Mao hat with a red star on the front. He had a newborn baby he had officially named “8-9, like the poker hand”! I swear to you I could not make this stuff up, the gambling community is amazing.
The former gun-wielding father of 8-9 arranged for us to see the 3 best houses available in the best part of Quezon City. I told Mark when the real estate agent asked what we do, not to say we are in the gambling industry or that we are going to run a business from the house because owners and neighbours don’t want that in a family area – he agreed. At the first house, the attractive real estate agent started making friendly chit-chat with Mark and within 5 minutes everyone knew we were planing to run a sportsbook from the house.
By a long series of emails and false promises to fix Mark’s boasting, I got us the best house but we had to pay the inflated listing price, a full year in advance and 2 months deposited. Around $45,000 all up.
We went furniture shopping for the house and bought everything at a high-end department store in one day for about $30,000. I told Mark we could save around 40% on the same stuff by shopping around and bargaining. I was glad he was not interested as I was now having fun living the life of a millionaire and had stopped caring about the future of the business, as I could see it had no future.
One night Mark wanted to go out and play pool. He ran well for a while and won 3 games in a row against different players until he found someone who would bet on it with him, it was a nice Filipino bloke.
The bet was only $5 and the game went to the black ball where Mark lost and insta-challenged the bloke to a $50 game. The local talked with an old gentleman sitting quietly in the corner like he owned the place, then accepted. His girlfriend went off at him, it seemed she was berating him for being a degenerate and gambling money they could not afford to lose.
In this game, Mark was behind by 4 balls when the other player was already on the black. Mark sunk 4 balls in a row and the 4th shot was a good one so the other player tapped the side of the table, as they do in Asia to say nice shot. Inexplicably Mark puffed out his chest and angrily said “give it a rest I’m trying to play here” he shook his head, got all in a huff then missed the black and lost $50.
Mark came over to me saying “Can you believe that dick head”. I told Mark “That’s how you say nice shot here” he replied “Oh yeah, and he only wanted to do it on the black ball, I know what he’s up to, he was trying to put me off! doggy”.
I could see what was coming next and warned him “don’t play him again mate, he is a shark, he’s getting staked by that old guy over there” to which Mark said, “He might think he is a shark but I am sharking him!”. The other player came to shake hands and said “I was just lucky” Mark replied, “Yeah lucky pft, I know what you’re doing. $500?”
The local bloke nodded his head and repeated “$500” then signalled to his girlfriend who smiled, walked to the other side of the room and got him his own custom pool cue and accessories box. He wiped the floor with Mark in 3 minutes.
The scam expands
Back to work and Mark had struck an agreement with a software and IT company to provide a white label website and some customer management features for the new sportsbook. He straight-up agreed to the $18,000 launch and $3000 a month asking price without asking for a service level agreement or understanding what he was buying.
Mark thought it was a good deal because it included payment processing and customer support. It took me a 5 minute Skype chat with the company to confirm what it actually included was payment gateways in the software that we would have to fill with our own payment processors, and customer support for our staff, not customers support for our customers, we would still have to do that.
Our last business meeting was with Broadband Town, Filbis’ only authorized web host for license holders. They talked about providing the best internet on the islands and Mark spent 15 minutes asking about which Islands had the best surf waves.
The beautiful account manager’s hand was shaking as she handed us the proposal and she nervously said “this is with Filbis license holders preferred pricing”. It was more than $5000 upfront than $1300 a month. So they were in on Reginald’s scam as well! We knew from our software provider we could get the same specifications on the private market for $100 a month.
I told Mark “We can get Broadband Town’s lowest specification basic economy hosting to host a backup version of the site on, then host the real site on the private market”. He replied “But we are ready to launch now and these guys are good, we want the good hosting anyway.” So he signed up and paid the initial $5000. We had spent about $150,000 on the trip for something guaranteed to end in legal charges or failure in the market.
On the last night, we were relaxing with a few drinks and watched the English Premier League with our local staff and some girls. I had my laptop open to Betfair and said “Tottenham is at 4.5 despite being higher on the table” Mark said “Oh really? I’ll have a piece of that, put $600 on for me mate” I replied “sure… all matched, Tottenham Hotspur to beat Liverpool for a stake of $6oo at odds of 4.5 for a potential profit of… $2100!
Mark was grinning from ear to ear and I realized what he had done. Earlier in the day he asked me to calculate how much I was owed in salary and expenses and I told him it was $2100! 90 minutes later he owed me $2700.
Mark fired me as soon as we got home from the work trip. And that’s why you should only join the quality crypto sportsbooks reviewed on BitEdge 🙂
The wonderful people of the Philippine Islands
I found Filipinos to be warm, friendly, talented and funny. Within Asians, they are also the most socially apt and relatable to by western standards. They are hardworking and energetic. Manila is alive, the city buzzes with energy and entrepreneurialism, and everyone seems to have a project or is doing something to get ahead and improve themselves.
It’s like the whole country has collectively decided they will work their way out of poverty 60 hours a week and are doing it with humility and dignity. The scenery outside of Manila is stunningly beautiful and the Pinays are awesome. If that sounds good to you check out Moving overseas as a professional sports bettor.
Mark’s sportsbook closed due to unprofitability less than a year after this trip. Over $1,750,000 was spent.
I returned to the Philippines and lived there for 18 months until I had to pay a bribe to leave!