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Firm cries foul over links to ‘jueteng’

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—The company running jai alai operations within the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZF) in Santa Ana, Cagayan, on Friday expressed dismay over what it said were continuing attempts to link its activities to illegal gambling.

Raul Banderas, spokesperson for the Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. (MVGC), blamed “jueteng” syndicates behind the “unrelenting and erroneous” campaign that is meant to supposedly tarnish the image of the company.

“We are investors in the Philippines who wish to do business legally but why are we being pilloried?” Banderas said in a statement.

He accused the “real gambling lords” to be behind the smear campaign against MVGC’s jai alai games.

“[They] were threatened by the resurgence of highly computerized betting games, including jai alai, which they feel will eventually kill jueteng,” Banderas said.

MVGC runs jai alai games played at the CSEZF and its spin-off numbers game that is operated in many provinces in Luzon, using a license issued by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza).

Earlier this month, MVGC’s jai alai activities were dragged into another controversy following an exposé by Mayor Rodrigo Orduña of Bugallon, Pangasinan, who named Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. as the “big boss” of jueteng operations in the province.

Orduña, who admitted he once operated jueteng, said MVGC’s operations have been used as cover to revive the numbers game in Pangasinan in 2010, which earlier stopped on the heels of a Senate investigation.

Espino has denied the allegations, including charges that he was receiving P10 million in monthly protection money.

In the statement, Banderas said MVGC’s jai alai is different from jueteng because the games are played and may be watched live on TV. In jueteng, he said, results are “rigged.”

Banderas said it was Orduña himself who admitted in his exposé that he issued a mayor’s permit to the company’s jai alai games supposedly because he believed that its operations were legal.

“We have followed the law and we did not authorize anybody to negotiate illegally with local and national officials, including the [Philippine National Police]. All payments done by [MVGC] are aboveboard, [proof of] which includes [the] mayor’s permit,” he said.

Banderas said he is frustrated that government officials have failed to protect legitimate businesses. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Tags: illegal gambling , Jueteng , Meridien Vista Gaming Corporation , News , Regions

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