BAGUIO CITY – The proposed revival of casino operations in the city by tourism industry stakeholders must undergo stringent public consultations in order to get the real sentiments of the people regarding the controversial issue that has continuously plagued the city government over the past several decades, Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan said here.
Domogan said the presence of casino operations in the city before the end of the 1980s seemed to have brought bad luck to the city because the former site of the casino at the Pines Hotel atop Luneta Hill was burned while the casino site at the Hyatt Terraces along South Drive was ruined by the July 16, 1990 killer earthquake.
He cited the relationship of numerous families had been ruined because of the casino operations in the city due to the exposure of its heads of families to gambling within their reach.
“We have to be extra careful in dealing with the proposal to revive casino operation in the city. We have to conduct a series of public hearings to ascertain the real sentiments of local residents about the proposal,” Domogan stressed.
While it is true that the city government is against casino operation, Domogan admitted most of the patrons of the casino in nearby San Fernando City, La Union are from the city and the nearby province of Benguet who spend millions daily playing their favourite casino games.
Earlier, Anthony de Leon, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) and general manager of the Baguio Country Club (BCC), called on the city government to revisit its anti-casino stand in order to allow the regulated casino operation in the city to help sustain the robust growth of the city’s tourism industry.
He claimed the casino operation is the missing link in the sustained growth of the city’s tourism industry, especially in the expected influx of foreign and domestic visitors following the upcoming completion of the 88-kilometer Tarla-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) that will substantially reduce the 6-hour travel time from Metro Manila to Baguio City and vice versa to only 3 hours.
The city council passed several resolutions over the past several decades expressing the city government’s opposition to the operation of all forms of gambling in the city because it will significantly affect the morals of the people and would result to the increase in crimes thereby compromising the city’s peace and order situation.
Domogan said there is a need to first listen to the true sentiments of the people to allow the possible crafting of stringent guidelines that will govern the casino operation so that those who are really qualified to play will be allowed to enter the casino.
Furthermore, he explained the casino operation should not be solely gambling but it should also include family-oriented amusement games for the benefit of allowing families to bond together through the amusement games that will be governed by appropriate rules and guidelines.
He reiterated his anti-gambling position because any form of gambling will not do anyone good but if the clamor of the people is for the revival of casino, then stringent rules and regulations must be promulgated to govern its operation in the city so that those who are qualified to paly will only be allowed to enter the amusement center.
By Dexter A. See