Ej Lopez
Ej Lopez

Apparently, the Philippines is slowly becoming the gambling capital of Southeast Asia if not the whole of Asia. In Metro Manila alone, around 20 casinos are found in strategic areas and some are still being put up.

Central Luzon can count at least 10 casinos in full operation while Calabarzon, with its fast growing economy, boasts of more than five casinos in its jurisdiction. Moreover, Visayas and Mindanao host around 10 gambling sites.

These numbers exclude many gambling facilities that are still undeveloped and strategically located for everyone’s convenience. Also not counted in the estimated number of these gambling lairs are online gambling kiosks which, to everybody’s amazement, are found in many barangays.

Notably, the Philippines has more gambling facilities compared to Macau, touted as the gambling capital of Asia, whose income is primarily drawn from gambling operations. Macau has only around 35 casinos. On the other hand, the Philippines has around 50 casinos.*

By sheer numbers alone, the Philippines should outperform Macau in the gambling industry. Yet, in our estimates, illegitimate gambling operations that work underground outnumber legal gambling facilities on such a scale that it has been considered a major industry in the underground economy. These illegal operations thrive because of alleged patronage from authorities that are supposed to curtail such activities.

Of course, one should not dispute or ignore the economic value that the gambling industry has contributed to our country’s coffers by way of taxes, tourism proceeds, employment, investment and foreign currency earnings. Reports from our local games and amusement corporation cite that the total gross income of the industry, amounting to P40,883,022,539 in 2012, was P4,224,270,811 or 11.52 percent higher than the P36,658,751,728 gross income of the industry in the preceding year. This marked the highest income performance of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp for the past 10 years, thus providing more funds for various government programs and projects.

It is logical, therefore, that the high income generated by gambling for the country has substantially subsidized a great number of our marginalized people and sectoral units of our society—justifying its local existence.

Moral issue

But how do you justify the moral implications of such type of income generating scheme? It goes without saying that it augurs well with the popular verse, “The end justifies the means.” But should every moral issue be settled and deemed ethically defensible because of material gains? Not to be labeled as hypocritical, but the moral and religious debate on the matter should be presented in order to get a glimpse of reason relative to the dispute. Unfortunately, this debate has been continuously ignored for reasons of material benefit.

How many individuals and families have been destroyed because of gambling? This issue cuts across all sectors of the society because gambling operations are not confined to large and lucrative enterprises.

The same operations are also pervasive in a smaller scale. People who have lost hope in the search for a better life have turned their attention towards gambling, for a one-in-a-million chance at a better life. In the end, we still have to ask ourselves: “What have I done to merit what I have now?” To guide us in all of life’s travails, we should be guided by this age-old biblical verse: “For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.”

Economic forum

The World Economic Forum (WEF), a Geneva-based non-profit and non-stock organization is meant primarily to gather economic stakeholders both from the public and private sector to map out plans and strategies that would address economic and political challenges faced by countries around the world. This objective boils down to improving and alleviating the lives of people around the world. The organization’s membership consists of the top 1,000 corporations of the world.

Despite noble objectives, this regular forum has not made any headway that can be truly WEF in character. Perhaps some have considered this gathering as a mere showcase of what the participating countries and companies can offer to the rest of the world. It is also an opportunity to promote products and services as well as tourism. Despite what seem to be numerous “benefits” accrued by this annual gathering of mammoth enterprises, it has not made any commitment as far as global relief is concerned except camaraderie or diplomatic relationships that, in the long run, are worthless. For a more effective organization, concrete commitments should be the main output of this annual summit.

*Providing another set of comparative figures, the World Casino Directory says Macau has 44 legal gambling facilities, while the Philippines has 54 such facilities).

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