The Quezon City Council has passed the Gambling Regulatory Ordinance of 2017 on third and final reading, but not after a vigorous five-hour debate among the councilors.
District 2 Councilor Ranulfo Ludovica, the main critic of the measure, echoed the position of the powerful Iglesia ni Cristo religious sect that “there was no such a thing as responsible gambling.”
Still, the ordinance will help pave the way for a P20-billion casino hotel to be built by Bloomberry Resorts Corp. of billionaire Enrique Razon on the Vertis North development along Agham Road.
The casino, which would be Bloomberry’s second in the country after Solaire Resort in Parañaque City, is earmarked for a P1.9-billion, 15,676-square meter lot, with construction expected to start mid-2018 and due to be finished in 2019.
“Yes, the INC spokesperson, Edwil Zabala, was right,” Ludovica—an admitted gambling lord for 17 years before becoming a councilor—told Manila Standard on Wednesday.
“I did nothing but to question, oppose and debate on many issues of the proposed measure before its passage,” he added.
The council began its regular session at 2 p.m. and ended at 7:30 p.m. “because of the lengthy debate due to my objection,” Ludovica said.
“How can gambling be regulated? That cannot be,” he added. “No amount of entrance fees and other payments can stop one person to gamble or regulate a gambler.”
District 4 Councilor Ivy Xenia Lagman, chairman of the committee on games and amusement, said the council would consider Zabala’s recommendation to review and fine-tune the other provisions of the proposed measure.
On Monday, the city council agreed to amend the measure’s original title from the Quezon City Responsible Gambling Ordinance to its present title.
Still, Ludovica said he is “very certain” the ordinance would face strong opposition from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., the government casino regulator, in court.
“Under Pagcor’s charter, the local government does not have the power to impose and collect fees from the operation of any games of chances. Here comes Quezon City imposing fees and other payments,” he said.
The ordinance would impose a P500 entrance fee on any individual who enters an electronic bingo establishment in Quezon City, Ludovica said. A casino player is obliged to pay a P1,500 entrance fee “only” under the measure.
He noted that councilors opposed to the bill “won [the debate] not to collect taxes, but lost in the issue of not to impose an entrance or gambling fee.”
Although the entrance fee is intended to fund the rehabilitation of gambling addicts in the city, Ludovica said the city ordinance “would only enrich the [casino or gambling] operators.”
“The Quezon City government does not [want] to impose new taxes. We will only earn mounting criticisms for that. There is no more need for such revenues. The city has a lot of money,” he said.
The councilor likened the casino entry fees to the two pesos charged every time a QC resident buts a plastic bag in a mall, store or restaurant under the Quezon City Plastic Reduction Ordinance.
Earlier, Lagman vowed to strengthen the city’s gambling regulations “and formulate proactive measures to address the negative effects of gambling on health and welfare of the city’s constituents.”