Quezon City candidate for mayor and current Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte has made her stance on a casino in her city a bit confusing. First she was for it, and now she doesn’t want her citizens to go to casinos. Now, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has announced that Belmonte should stay in her lane, and let them set regulations for gambling in the Philippines.
In a press statement release on March 12, PAGCOR has declared it “maintains its position that local government units (LGU) do not have the authority to regulate games of chance even in their localities. Instead, this function is a mandate of PAGCOR by virtue of its charter, Presidential Decree 1869.”
They go on to quote Presidential Decree Number 771, issued in 1975, which states in part that it “revokes the authority of LGUs to issue license permit or any form of franchise to operate, maintain and establish forms of gambling.”
They also quote a legal opinion from 1998 that restricts the authority to maintain gambling activities to the national government agencies, and specifically PAGCOR.
These statements had to be issued by PAGCOR because of Belmonte’s confusing stance on Bloomberry’s upcoming Solaire casino, to be located in the Vertis North complex in Quezon City. At first, Belmonte said she supported the idea and would issue an ordinance to allow the casino to go through.
Belmonte’s ordinance turned out to include restrictions on the casino, putting entry fees on Quezon City locals who wished to visit the casino. Belmonte argued the casino should be for tourists, and she would “make it hard for Quezon City residents to go [inside] the casino.”
PAGCOR now says that Belmonte can’t have it both ways. If Quezon City doesn’t want a casino, “It should not have issued Bloomberry Resorts Corporation a Letter of No Objection and Resolution of No Objection when the latter was completing documentary requirements for the application of a provisional license,” they wrote.
They also note the folly of her policy. They cite a University of Nevada, Las Vegas study that shows entry fees only drive away recreational bettors, doing nothing to decrease problem gambling.
Bloomberry already have the permits and the money to push ahead with their casino, so it now looks like it may be a court battle between PAGCOR and Quezon City Hall, if Belmonte doesn’t back off her restrictions. Either that, or Belmonte finds some way to retract the licenses the city has already issued, forfeiting hundreds of jobs and millions in revenue sorely needed by a city.