The Roman Catholic Bishop of Tagbilaran have restated his critical objection to the establishment and operation of electronic gaming activities under the category of electronic bingo (e-bingo) after operators of e bingo resubmitted their controversial applications for reconsideration while a new entrant applied for a permit to operate e-bingo to the Sangguniang Panlungsod last week.
The Bishop’s letter on August 18, 2015 came a day before a special session was called to discuss the request for reconsideration filed by One Bingo Pavilion and Diamond Millennium Corporation whose applications were denied by the SP last year and a new applicant – JO-E Gaming Corporation intention to operate e-bingo in the city.
The Bishop of Tagbilaran Leonardo Y. Medroso, D.D. wrote Vice Mayor Antonio Veloso and his colleagues in the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) reiterating the “firm conviction” of the Church that “a government that promotes gambling is a morally corrupt government”.
Joining the Bishop’s uncompromising stand against legal and illegal gambling were city residents who expressed their resounding noÂ against the entry of e-bingoÂ shown in a survey conducted by DYRD “Inyong Alagad”.
The telephone and text message survey conducted on August 19-20, 2015 found that 80% of Tagbilaranons opposed the entry of e bingo as a deadly trap that sucks people into a mindset that gambling is just a recreational activity and is just a tap on a touch screen to hit the jackpot while gaming operators raking in huge fortunes.
Survey respondents also flayed the seeming intoxication of the public squandering their hard earned money to end up virtual losers in a game of chance tailored fit for the majority to lose in exchange for the odd one to win.
Medroso’s letter to Veloso zeroed in on the “issue concerning gambling operations in our locality especially the lotteries and e-casinos/e-games” that is creating a culture of gambling and is seriously eroding the moral values of the community.
Medroso urged parishioners to denounce illegal gambling, combat the expansion of organized and systemic legal gambling and to refrain from soliciting or receiving funds from illegal and legal gambling to prevent the promotion of a culture of gambling.
Tagbilaran City is now home to an increasing number of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PSCO) on line Lotto betting stations catering to the city residents insatiable daily betting needs even as the illegal numbers game are still proliferating in the city.
Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) e Games station offering virtual casino games are also found in the neighboring towns of Dauis and Panglao.
Traditional bingo games are offered at the Island City Mall mostly to senior citizens and retirees and has been operating for more than ten years while theÂ ChronicleÂ learned that e-bingo operators are eyeing Baclayon as their next site.
Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Medroso clarified that “games of chance or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice” but feared that the passion for gambling will deprive people of their needs and lead to “enslavement” especially the poor.
Medroso condemned organized, widespread and systemic gambling, whether legal or illegal as a spawning ground for corruption and addiction which “in it’s illegal form breeds a clandestine network of corruption that feeds itself on the hundreds of millions of pesos lost to gambling especially the poor”.
Atty. Bienvenido Benitez of One Bingo Pavilion, an applicant for an Electronic Bingo Boutique to be located at the Galleria Luisa along Gallares St., Tagbilaran allayed fears of concerned Tagbilaranons that “there are no negative effects of gaming in our community”.
Benitez was referring to the company’s experience operating a gaming facility in Panglao since April 2014 contrary Â to the claim of Panglao Kagawad Rogelin Degoma about the ill effects of on line gambling in Panglao.
According to Degoma, on line gambling made accessible to practically anybody who wants to experience the adrenalin rush of virtual casino gambling has contributed to the tremendous harm inflicted on relationships, careers and reputations of ordinary residents of Panglao.
The operation of two PAGCOR e-gaming stations in Panglao barely passed the proverbial eye of the needle only after Vice Mayor Pedro Fuertes broke a deadlock among the kagawads that gave Bohol’s tourist destination their first gaming facilities that offer virtual casino games.
The sudden revival of the e-bingo issue, considered dead and long gone was triggered by a letter from City Mayor John Geesnell Yap ll to Veloso on January 23, 2015 “anticipating your favorable consideration and appropriate action on this matter . .”.
According to Veloso that upon receipt of the letter, he immediately referred it to the Committee on Commerce and Industry chaired by Kagawad Betty Torralba.
Six months later, Torralba referred the letter back to Veloso with the recommendation that the matter be discussed by the SP sitting as a committee of the whole.
As a matter of procedure, Veloso as the presiding officer of the SP convened the body as a committee of the whole and requested that the matter be disposed of expeditiously since the SP has junked the request of the gaming operators for a resolution of no objection last year.
According to Veloso, a motion by Kagawad Bebiano Inting to defer the voting for a week was approved by the committee and was agreed that each of the members shall submit their positions on the issue in writing.
But according to Kagawad Augustinus Gonzaga, the stand of the SP on the operation of e-bingo in the city will remain in the negative even as he appealed to his colleagues to set aside partisan politics rearing it’s ugly head in the discussions.
Gonzaga raised the issue of politics after Galleria Luisa owned by his sister’s husband, the Ong family was approved by PAGCOR as the site of the e-bingo boutique managed by One Bingo Pavilion.
Gonzaga suspected that the majority block identified with the present administration blocked the entry of One Bingo Pavilion to protect the present bingo operations at the ICM mall known to be a major political supporter of Mayor Yap.
But Inting quickly defused the allegations of Gonzaga saying that the main concern of the SP was the backlash of objections from the mostly religious and conservative sectors of Tagbilaran.
However, dyed in the wool gamblers has been frequenting the gaming stations in Dauis and Panglao and was relieved to learn about the intention of gaming operators to expand their operations to Tagbilaran City.
But their hopes were dashed after the SP junked the request of e-game stations to operate in the city.
For now, Tagbilaran City has been spared from another form of gambling in addition to the popular lotteries. How strong willed are the authorities and city residents to resist pressure exerted by gaming operators who peddle the gambling lifestyle as harmless and routine remains a bettor’s game.Â (Chito M. Visarra/Bohol Chronicle)