Jai alai firm to follow GAB rules | Inquirer News

Jai alai firm to follow GAB rules

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 03:16 AM July 18, 2011

Confronted with a government crackdown, a controversial gaming firm has proposed an “amicable” settlement with the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) to allow it to operate jai alai games, saying it is willing to submit to regulations the board may impose.

Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. raised the idea of a compromise solution in a letter to the GAB dated July 1. The letter’s seemingly conciliatory tone was a sharp contrast to Meridien’s media statements portraying itself as “a victim of a trial by publicity and harassment.”


Since March last year, Meridien has been allowed to operate jai alai games within the Cagayan free port in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, under a permit from the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza).

The company has since been the subject of a legal skirmish that has dragged the Aparri Regional Trial Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court into the fray.


The legal tussle was sparked by a GAB order in March declaring that Meridien “and all entities operating jai alai betting stations under (the company) are hereby ordered to cease and desist from operating their establishments as such until further orders from this board.”

In its July 1 letter to GAB Chair Juan Ramon Guanzon, Meridien lawyers Raymond Fortun and Angelo Nino Santos said: “We do understand that our client has to submit itself to the regulations, as well as the terms and conditions, of the board to operate jai alai.”

The letter said that “for the meantime, while we are still in the process of complying with the board’s requirements, may we request for a status quo on our client’s business operation until such time we have concluded an agreement on the matter.”

Meridien wrote the letter a week after the Court of Appeals issued a 60-day temporary restraining order stopping the Aparri RTC from implementing its resolution blocking the GAB’s cease-and-desist order.

Cadiz interview

In an earlier interview, Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz said the GAB’s cease-and-desist order covered the jai alai games played at the Cagayan free port since the state regulatory agency had argued that Meridien did not apply for permits from the GAB for its operations and for its jai alai personnel, including pelotaris.

“The GAB is insisting on its power to regulate jai alai games and betting inside the Ceza,” Cadiz earlier said.


The board has ordered a stop to Meridien’s operations for failing to secure a “legislative franchise,” as well as other permits.

The Meridien spokesperson, Raul Banderas, has insisted that the Court of Appeals’ order involves only the regulatory powers of the GAB “and is not an order to shut down jai alai or (Meridien) operations.”

Linked to ‘masiao’

In the wake of the appellate court’s restraining order, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo directed the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to raid off-fronton betting centers and arrest all persons running them.

Jai alai games from Cagayan are televised online. Robredo said he had received reports that their results were being used as basis for “masiao,” an illegal numbers game popular in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Guanzon said Meridien’s letter had been forwarded to other GAB officials “for deliberation and appropriate action.”

Cadiz, whose office represents the GAB in the legal cases, said GAB officials had yet to consult with government lawyers on Meridien’s letter.

“What I know is that it’s still under consideration,” Cadiz told the Inquirer on Sunday over the phone.

No jurisdiction

While he did not want to impose on what the GAB should do, Cadiz said he found it unacceptable that Meridien should demand a status quo before complying with the state regulatory agency’s requirements.

“Technically, what they wanted was to operate first before securing permits from the GAB,” Cadiz said.

“I think we have good legal grounds to prove before the Court of Appeals that the Aparri (RTC) did not have jurisdiction to stop GAB, whose authority is not limited to Aparri, but [covers] nationwide,” he said.

The wicker-and-ball game was introduced to the Philippines by Spaniards more than 100 years ago. Decades later it became a gambling pastime for many Filipinos.

Then President Corazon Aquino banned jai alai in 1987. Attempts by private groups to resurrect the game were stopped by the Supreme Court later.

In 2009, then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez issued a legal opinion saying the Ceza may operate or grant licenses to operators of jai alai. He said that while the Ceza charter made no mention of jai alai, its authority was implied since it was authorized to put up gambling casinos and gaming operations. With Inquirer Research

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