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QC VICE MAYOR’S STAND

Pagcor welcome to question gambling ordinance in court

Even if Bloomberry Resorts Corp. moves forward with plans to build a high-rise gaming hub in Quezon City, the city council has passed a regulatory ordinance that will limit residents’ access to the area.

“Since the argument is it should be for tourism, it should cater only to tourists,” Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte—who is antigambling—told the Inquirer. “We’ll really make it hard for Quezon City residents to go [inside] the casino.”

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Belmonte said she was aware that most of the gamblers at Bloomberry’s first Solaire resort in Entertainment City — Parañaque City’s scaled-down answer to the Las Vegas strip — were from Quezon City.

“They told me it would be a waste if these people still had to go to Parañaque,” Belmonte said, adding: “I told them, ‘I don’t care.’ Can you imagine, the number of Quezon City gamblers would double, especially since the casino is along Edsa?”

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Looming legal battle

Belmonte said the ordinance was passed despite an anticipated battle in court, as Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chair Andrea Domingo earlier told her she would try to block its implementation by seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO).

Domingo had invoked Pagcor’s exclusive rights under Presidential Decree No. 1869, or the Pagcor charter, to craft such regulatory activities. Belmonte, however, said she was clinging to the Local Government Code mandate that city governments should “look after the welfare of [their] people.”

“I welcome [the TRO] so the courts can decide whether it’s the Pagcor charter or Local Government Code that has precedence,” she said.

All systems go for project

Bloomberry chair Enrique Razon Jr. announced in June 2018 that he expected the Solaire-branded integrated resort in Quezon City to be completed by 2022. Belmonte said Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista had already issued a letter of no objection, keeping the project on track.

In February, two of Bloomberry’s subsidiaries, Sureste Properties Inc. and Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels Inc., also secured P40 billion in funding for the casino resort after signing a loan agreement with several banks.

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The new entertainment hub will be built in Ayala’s Vertis North complex, on a 1.57-hectare lot that Bloomberry bought from the National Housing Authority in 2015 for P1.98 billion.

“I understand the benefits economically of having it,” said Belmonte, referring to the new jobs and activity in the area that were being developed as the city’s first central business district.

But she and city councilors moved forward with the ordinance, passed in 2017, that was patterned after regulatory measures taken at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. These included high entrance fees for locals and the creation of a local gambling regulatory office.

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TAGS: Boomberry Resorts Corp., Joy Belmonte, Pagcor
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