MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines should think twice about building more casinos because it might attract drug lords and other criminals who get their money from illegal means, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Wednesday.
“Gambling entices the wrong crowd, definitely. Vice attracts vicious people, not good or sound individuals. It will attract drug lords and their drug money and even gangsters and criminals who want to launder their money legally and can’t spend their money anywhere else,” Cruz told ABS-CBNnews.com.
Cruz, who has waged a campaign against jueteng and other illegal numbers games, said the country is in danger of becoming a gambling republic, with casinos for the moneyed class, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) lotto for the middle-income and lower classes, and jueteng for the very poor.
He warned that building a Philippine version of Las Vegas could lead to a rise in gambling addiction.
“Gambling, whether legal or illegal, sows a mentality of luck and laziness. Gambling addiction destroys livelihoods and families. As a priest, the hardest part of my job is to give advice to a family who is forced to sell their house and all their worldly possessions after a member of the family, usually the father, is addicted to gambling,” he said.
Cruz said hard-working individuals who want to gamble are better off giving their money to the poor.
He blasted government officials who say that building more casinos would bring in billions of dollars in revenue to the country.
“If we are looking for more money, why not legalize drugs and prostitution? Why not legalize pedophilia? It’s the same thing. The end does not justify the means. They say gambling money will help build roads and schools but what about the families whose lives were destroyed because of gambling?”
He also asked: “If gambling is good, why are there laws stopping government officials from going to casinos? Mahirap i-justify ang gambling. Malansa yan e. It attracts flies.”
Chairman Cristino Naguiat of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCor) earlier said the Philippines could earn as much as $10 billion in revenue from the Vegas-style "Entertainment City" in Pasay.
He said the Philippine casinos aim to attract mainly the huge mainland Chinese market, and neighboring countries in the region.
Entertainment City's four project proponents include Bloomberry Hotels and Resorts Inc., whose Solaire Manila project will open next year; Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc., which will develop the Manila Bay Resorts; and the SM group and Travellers International.
SM's Belle Grande project will open its first phase in 2013, while Travellers' Resorts World Bayshore will break ground June this year.