E-bingo halt pushed

ALDERMEN have the power to stop gambling in the city.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Senior Manager for Gaming and Licenses Division, Marivic Baas said formal opposition from the local council is enough to shut down gaming sites.

On Monday, PAGCOR was summoned by aldermen to shed light on operations of e-bingo in the city where existing gaming sites obtained licenses in various ways.

Baas relayed requirements have changed for gaming sites in 2013 with rules becoming more restrictive.

PAGCOR granted permits to SM City Baguio in 2004 while Centermall operations were granted in 2001 which did not require local council consent at that time.

Rules were changed in 2013 by PAGCOR with gaming sites now requiring a Certificate Of No Objection from local council along with standard business papers.

Local outlets in SM City Baguio and Centermall have operated without permission from the local government unit, needing only PAGCOR authority, while the latest outlet in Maharlika Livelihood Center had to obtain council approval as per new guideline of PAGCOR.

Baas said the Marcos Highway Puregold branch for gaming were approved and given permits by the local government in September 2016, apparently with city council approval.

However, one gaming site, also in Marcos Highway near a bar joint earned the ire of aldermen, as it operates within city limits but has acquired permits and consent from the municipality of Tuba.

Baas has requested the local council to reiterate their opposition to the illegally operating site and said impasse can be grounds for closure.

Another gaming site at the Maharlika Livelihood Center, is about to open, with consent given by the local council last year, despite opposition from socio civic groups.

Councilors Maylen Yaranon and Peter Fianza led the opposition to approve the site but was overpowered by the majority of their colleagues.

Yaranon was hoping that under PAGCOR rules, a gaming site must comply with distance requirements which should not be less than 100 meters from schools, places of worship and markets.

The Maharlika e-bingo is near the United Church of Christ, the Baguio Patriotic School and the city public market.

However, Baas said the distance requirements set by the gaming agency imposes exceptions for arcades, malls and hotels as these areas are controlled environments which can uphold regulatory requirements set.

Yaranon then appealed to PAGCOR to halt issuing permits to the gaming site imploring the area is at the center of town and easily accessible to children.

Baas however said all papers of the operator are in place and pointed out, council approval was issued, making it impossible for PAGCOR to deny permits.

Baas said only a resolution from the local council can end gaming operations in the city, bringing the decision and the power back to the hands of aldermen.

Baas said the e-bingo operations in SM have expired January 15 and are now being renewed in the city while Baguio Centermall operations are valid until 2018 and Puregold operations will last till May 8.

Baas also said there are “Player Exclusion” rules which can be applied to appease the distress of parents and family members over addiction of loved ones to gambling.

The PAGCOR official said banning persons is allowed by the gaming regulation body under a program implemented to provide patrons who feel that relatives or they themselves are developing a problem with gambling with the option of barring them from all gaming venues or sites.

The National Database for Restricted Persons or NDRP is a web application designed to manage data relating to the restricted customer of license gaming establishments. It is a search engine designed to check a player’s gaming profile and entitlement to enter a gaming establishment. Its objective is to provide our licensee and self-operated casinos information about a player who enters the gaming area. The system affords immediate input of basic data from remote terminals and also affords real-time output of the processed information in authorized terminals.

A computerized database of persons who are restricted from playing in gaming establishments, operated and regulated by PAGCOR nationwide. This database is accessible online to authorized representatives of gaming operators.

Baas said there are two sites in the country which have been shut down because of the establishments allowing minors to play games.

So far, Baas said there have been no requests from Baguio to ban anyone from playing as well as no reports of minors availing of gaming in any of the sites.

During the council meeting, socio civic groups were present to oppose all types of gambling in the city.

Last year, former Baguio Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzon with members of the Baguio Benguet Ecumenical Group (BBEG) has appealed to Mayor Maurico Domogan not to renew permits for e-bingo establishments in 2017 and advocated for family oriented tourism, honest and clean businesses, for responsible public officials and city employees and protected school children, students and families.

Sun*Star sources claimed an alleged payoff was given to city councilors to approve e-bingo operations in Maharlika which was brokered by a fellow councilor.
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