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Last Updated:[13-08-2010 05:49:58 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

Philippines is after Casino Biz amid Opposition

tradenews The Philippines aims to become Asia's next big gambling hub by building casinos and related entertainment zones across the country amid controversy. According to Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), an "Entertainment City" will come up in Manila to rival Macau and Singapore, the regional titans in the gambling trade, and is expected to be completed by 2014.

Nancy Reyes Lumen, Editor in Chief of Cook Magazine in her blog claimed that last week's church sermons peppered the new government's policy by making a clarion call - "No to Casinos, no to resorts, no to motels, no to Shabu (meth/illegal drugs)." While the Philippines Inquirer reported that "The lure of easy money is being promoted by some very powerful men".

It is feared that these gambling centres may become focal point of other "shadow" industries common to casino culture. The blog added that illegal recruiters were on the prowl to lure hapless poor girls (and boys), offering jobs as maids or entertainers, eventually landing them in flesh trade.

Cristino Naguiat, chairman of the PAGCOR informed AFP on Tuesday "We are way behind Macau and Singapore in terms of the casino industry... (but) we would like to be positioned right at the top." He also revealed that "Like other Asian gambling industries, the Philippines wants to tap into the vast mainland Chinese market."

The new government of President Benigno Aquino, which took office on June 30, has suspended issuing fresh licenses to casinos giving free hand to existing operators in the country to monopolistically control the gambling industry. There are four licensees, and each is required to spend at least one billion dollars in developing the ambitious Entertainment City.

The four licenses to build the Entertainment City on reclaimed land along Manila Bay were awarded in 2008 under the former President Gloria Arroyo. The moment the government announced its decision to exploit revenue generation through gambling, the shares of the licensees hit new highs in the stock market.

By Jose Roy

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