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Jueteng (pronounced hwe-teng) is an illegal numbers game played in the Philippines. Jueteng originated from China and means "flower" (jue) and "bet" (teng). Although illegal, it is a widely popular game with participation that crosses most, if not all social and economic boundaries. With long odds and no limits on minimum or maximum bets, the lure of quick riches through a lucrative payout is by far its strongest appeal.[1]


The Spanish government sponsored gambling as a franchise of the governor-general in Manila.[2] It was introduced by Spanish colonizers, dating back to the 1800s.[3] Tickets were even sold in ferries or boats to the Visayas and Mindanao.[4] During the bulk of the 20th century, jueteng operations were primarily conducted and financed by Chinese migrants, until the locals ultimately took over.[citation needed]


Before the game, the bankers, colloquially known as cobradors or cabo, usually solicit peoples' houses for potential bettors. Some cobradors may also erect stalls or kiosks on the street to attract bettors. Once a bettor is found, the game begins. The bettor picks two digits from 1 to 37. Bets can be as low as 25 cents. A bet of one peso can win from ₱ 400.00 to ₱ 1,000.00,[citation needed] depending on the location.

Small Town Lottery[edit]

Although much has been done to curtail or eradicate this form of unregulated gambling by government and community leaders,[citation needed] such efforts have fallen by the wayside due to the game's vast popularity and the poverty in the country. Ironically, in the 1980s, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) once sanctioned and operated a similar game, called "Small Town Lottery," which raised the popularity of the game. The number that bettors have to choose from has been increased from 37 to 40. This has been made to seemingly detach its identity from that of jueteng and increase the odds of winning.


Jueteng was brought to notoriety in 2000 during the impeachment proceedings of deposed Philippine President Joseph Estrada, who was eventually found guilty of plunder on 12 September 2007 after receiving millions in illegal payoffs, including from gambling profits. Another political scandal erupted in June 2005 involving allegations that relatives of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo received payouts from jueteng operators.

In popular culture[edit]

The 2006 film Kubrador by Jeffrey Jeturian centers on an aging bet collector (played by Gina Pareño) who finds her mundane existence suddenly transformed by an unforeseen series of events and jueteng, the game of numbers that dates back to the Philippines' Spanish colonial period.


  1. ^ TTY. ROMEO V. PEFIANCO. "Jueteng is Embedded in Local Culture". Retrieved 2012-09-19. [dead link]
  2. ^ TTY. ROMEO V. PEFIANCO. "Lottery/jueteng since 1893". Retrieved 2012-09-19. [dead link]
  3. ^ "POLICING AMERICA'S EMPIRE: The United States, The Philippines, and The Rise of the Surveillance State". University of Wisconsin Press: 156–157. 
  4. ^ "Yes to Jueteng!". Retrieved 2012-09-19.