Sangil: The casino in Fontana


THE Philippine government enters into contracts with private individuals and firms. And it should honor those contracts, because for anyone to enter into business it has to get the state's consent. And once given, after going through a rigid process, the state's integrity in honoring and respecting the contracts must be upheld at all times.

The newspapers in recent weeks carried front page stories about the closure of Fontana Resort and Leisure and resulted to related stories, the biggest of which was the alleged extortion against Chinese businessman Jack Lam by two associate commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration. It is still a very much media covered event as they continue to grill the two in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard 'Dick' Gordon.

And in one of those hearings in the senate by another committee the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) sent a resource person, Arnel Ignacio, a movie comedian/host who is currently employed by the government's gaming regulatory agency.

When Ignacio was asked why Jack Lam was only remitting 1% of his junket tour operation in Fontana, he replied that it was called for in the contract. Now, even a law student will tell you contracts are binding until amended. And how come the government is saying that Mr. Lam owes the government several tens of millions?

In my interviews with Fontana executives, rank and file employees including some officials from PAGCOR, they are one in saying that the government acted hastily in ordering the closure of the gambling casino which resulted in the displacement of thousands of workers. Up to now, many are still out of jobs and are expecting the casino will be reopened.

The government was correct in going after the on-line gaming operation where some of the 1,316 Chinese were found lacking in documents. But those people caught were not part of the casino operation which has a license from PAGCOR and permit from Clark Development Corporation. And both agencies monitor the casino operation 24 hours a day and get their tax shares as provided for by law.

Yes Virginia, there's a whale of difference between casino operation and on-line gambling.
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