Sangil: Killing the goose that lays the golden egg

I READ last week in the business section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer about the plan of also-called ‘state-run think tank’ pushing for a higher qualifying fee to enter and play in casinos. (Hey guys, the casinos can’t be compared to cockpits).The proposed fee will range from a low of P500 to a high of P1,500. The reason given is to shore up revenues and support the administration’s ambitious infrastructure ‘Build,Build,Build’ program.

I am sorry to say that it seems, this so-called think tank group didn’t think deeply enough, or haven’t done due diligence. If they have asked around they should have known that an entrance fee was already imposed by the PAGCOR operated casinos in the early nineties but somehow dropped it altogether only after a year or so. If I remember it right, the entrance fee of one hundred pesos was imposed and the amount collected was intended for the Mt. Pinatubo displaced victims.

I really don’t know how PAGCOR Chairperson Andrea Domingo will react to this latest development but I am sure operators of big casinos the like City of Dreams, Solaire, Okada, Royce, Midori and Widus will not just stand on the side with their arms akimbo and let this ridiculousness. Collecting entrance fees to the casinos is a sure way of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

In Las Vegas in the United States no casino impose entrance fees. As a retro I remember the year 1979 because that was my first trip to the United States of America, and highlighted by a two night stay in Las Vegas. I strolled at the famous 'the Strip' and I walked in and out of the casinos. Ah! The good life! There were free shows, free drinks and if lucky enough given free betting coupons.

More retros. In 1979, Henry Sy, Sr. was not yet in banking, retail, power and casino business. Now is family is involved with City of Dreams, the biggest casino in operation today in this country. From one who migrated into the country and started selling shoes in a small store in Carriedo street in Sta. Cruz district in Manila in the fifties he is now included among the 100 richest persons in the world. That's quite a feat.

Casino business is good and a profitable business. The Sys are now in partnership with Kerry Packer of Australia and Lawrence Ho of Macao and operates the City of Dreams. I made a visit once and I was impressed. Enrique 'Ricky' Razon, Jr. who is in port terminal operation ventured also in casino business and his Solaire casino is raking in the money from the high rollers of Asian gamblers. According to the papers, at 55 he is the youngest Filipino to make the list in Forbes richest men in the world.

This I cannot forget. Looking back, sometime in the sixties, the casinos in this country were lined along the stretch of Roxas Boulevard. I worked as public relations and liason man of the late Nicanor 'Junior' De Guzman of Nueva Ecija. He was operating several casinos together with his brother-in-law Rudy Ilustre some of which I remember like the Ambassador, Stardust, Chrysanthemum and La Sirena.

The Magdaluyos, Riveros and few more others came up with their own establishments only to be closed down when President Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law in September 1972.

There were also some operations in the provinces during those years. Lawyer Rogelio Z. Bangsil of Magalang studied law and passed the bar but found that the legal profession was not really for him. He started his casino operation in Olongapo City in the late sixties in partnership with the Escalonas. He operated three casinos there, the Rovisa, Gold Nugget and the Big C.

I was in my early twenties when he hired me as a his general manager in the operation of his Marisol Manor Hotel and Casino which was located in a secluded area in the Marisol subdivision. I want to think till today that I have the bragging right that we were able to beat the three other casinos in the city in terms of patronage. These were the Lazatin-run Kontiki casino along MacArthur Highway, the Oasis casino operated by the late Ed Antonio and the Skyline Casino owned by the late Rod Feliciano. They were unregulated by government. If you can enter any casino then you’ll get red carpet treatment. Free food and drinks. And no entrance fee was imposed on gamblers.
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