Fishers group sees evil in Albay casino plan

Fishers group sees evil in Albay casino plan

The Lakas ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Bicol (Lambat-Bicol), the regional chapter of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday said they see evil in the plan of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to put up a casino inside the P 1-billion commercial complex sitting on a 2.6 hectare reclaimed area in Legaspi City.

“The commercial complex is just a front literally and figuratively speaking. The giant complex is constructed to promote the culture and life of gambling and host gambling folks who want to be millionaires. We see all-time evil in this plan of the national government,” said Lambat-Bicol chairperson Salvador France in a press statement.

The complex designed by Australian engineers and patterned after the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California, USA will host other amenities such as a lifestyle mall and will house an 8,000 seat call center at its Information Technology Park.

But France, also the vice-chairperson for Luzon of Pamalakaya, said the construction of the commercial complex popularly known as Embarcadero de Legaspi in Legaspi City was constructed at the expense of the small fisherfolk and the environment.

According to France, more than 20 hectares of mangrove areas were destroyed and around 100 families of small fisherfolk were uprooted from their fishing village to give way for the reclamation of 2.6 coastal shores where Embarcadero de Legaspi is located.

“Imagine, the state-run gambling corporation compelled people to leave their fishing community and facilitated the massacre of 20 plus hectares of mangrove areas just to install this gambling center at the heart of Albay’s capital,” the Lambat-Bicol leader said.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap, who is also a fulltime fisherman in Albay and Sorsogon provinces said the government plan to put up a casino inside Embarcadero de Legaspi would be a major electoral issue, adding those who would support its construction will face rejection in the 2010 elections.

“The pro-Casino politicians in Albay will suffer electoral defeat in the May 2010 elections if they insist this diabolical project. This is a regional issue that will decide the outcome of next year’s elections at the provincial and district levels,” said Hicap.

To illustrate the impacts of casinos on public, Pamalakaya cited the report made by U.S. Senator Paul Simon to the U.S. Senate Committee investigating the effects of casinos on the American public. Quoting Simon’s report in the U.S. Senate in the early 1990s, the group said, “Costs to society of the problem gambler vary from the most conservative estimate of US$13,200 to US$30,000 per year.”

According to a study cited in the senator report, “Overall, the state gains US$326 million in net revenue from the presence of the casinos.

However, this figure is reduced substantially — to US$166.25 million — when even the lowest estimated social costs of compulsive gambling are included in the calculations. With mid-range estimated social costs, the overall impact becomes negligible, while with higher social-cost estimates, the impact becomes clearly negative.”

Pamalakaya further stressed the presence of casinos would attract more people to gamble as in the case of Illinois: “The Simon report points out that nationally, less than 1 percent or 0.77 percent of the population are compulsive gamblers, but when enterprises are located near a population, that number increases two to seven times.”

Pamalakaya likewise cited the findings of Donald Trump, a Miami-based financial analyst on casino about the impact of high cost gambling. Citing Trump’s report, the group said promoters of the casino often stress the benefits of introducing casino operations.

Pamalakaya said: “People will spend a tremendous amount of money in casinos, money that they would normally spend on buying a refrigerator or a new car. Local businesses will suffer because they’ll lose customer dollars to the casinos.”

According to “Legalized Gambling as a Strategy for Economic Development” authored by Vernon George, an economic consultant for the casino industry, who also provides feasibility studies for communities contemplating riverboat gambling, private developers usually exaggerate public benefits in order to make their proposals more attractive.

Pamalakaya also cited the testimony delivered by prosecuting attorney Jeffrey Bloomberg of Lawrence County, South Dakota, during a U.S. House committee hearing on his experiences dealing with Deadwood, a small community in South Dakota that became the first place outside of Atlantic City and Nevada to legalize casino gambling.

Bloomberg said host communities were promised with “economic development, new jobs and lower taxes.” Instead, casinos flourished, but other businesses did not. Based on Bloomberg’s own account, businesses that provide the basic necessities of life such as clothing are no longer available and customers of the town’s only remaining grocery store walk past a gauntlet of slot machines as they exit with their purchases. #

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