Just wondering what we get out of having casinos as a tourist and investment attraction.
Without decrying the dangers that easy gambling accessibility would do to the general public (even if one supposedly has to show that he has the means to gamble), is it worth the jobs, the taxes, the predisposition to break the law that governs our monetary rules and in general bring about a moral dilemma regarding gambling as an addiction or as the mother of sub rosa behavior to eschew honest labor as well as circumvent the very rules that are supposedly in place to keep it under control?
The scandal of the laundering of stolen money through our casinos, and apparently we have many casinos even in far-flung and seemingly unlikely places such as Cagayan, is a worrisome event that under present circumstances of the laws in place and their weak if inept implementation seems likely to be repeated. Or, maybe it has been a continuing event.
The cast of characters arrayed at the Senate hearings regarding the stolen Bangladesh Bank funds passing through our banking system, transferred to our casinos and disappearing into dead chips is almost surreal. But then truth is stranger than fiction.
Junket operators are employers or investors that we better keep a wary eye on and tighten some rules about. But then this ilk is always one step ahead of the law. They are more savvy than our law enforcers or seem to make them run around in circles. So, are they worth having in our midst circumventing our rules?
Then there is the ancillary industry of mindless money changing regardless of suspicious amounts, banking rules circumvented and unprofessional if not unethical relations between bankers, money changers, junket operators and, of course, big-time gamblers or gambling operators.
One just has to watch one hearing of the Senate on the money laundering caper we are confronted with to see all the above on view. The junket operator who knows everyone, treats those who cooperate with him to lavish dinners and probably more freebies, has unsavory partners and can explain only in part and return only some of the money that illegally, immorally, expertly was stolen from the Bangladesh central bank.
Then there is the money changer who came to the first sessions confidently laughing away questions regarding the huge sums from unexplained and seemingly suspicious sources that she deftly and speedily changed from one currency to another. She was not so risible in the next session when found out to have given illegal receipts (against BIR rules), had not bothered to notify the BIR that her business had changed from land transportation ventures to moneychanging. She could not (maybe would not) name her accountant who prepared preposterous returns with huge operating expenses so as to lower the taxes to be paid. Whence come such creatures if not from some underworld that the general public, the law enforcement agencies (including our AMLC, which seems to be clueless lately), and who have blatantly unethical ties to some bank officers, if not from a gambling universe that is driven by worship of easy money and its consequent acquisition using what is (to be kind), unorthodox, unconventional, immoral means.
I do not use the word illegal because we have laws giving casinos a place in our society. But in view of what is happening some re-thinking, some more control, some moral re-structuring, and more pointed and effective legislation to put all these factors in the right place are absolutely called for.
The Senate hearings bring all these imperfections, nay odious modus operandi, up front and it is not a pretty sight. It can only be hoped that public opinion and legislative responsibility will come up to correct matters, put some people in jail, sanction self-serving opportunists who played vital roles in this criminal scenario, and for Heaven’s sake return the money to the Bangladesh Bank with a minimum of red tape, fuss, or other circumventions.