Luczon: Gambling morality and economics (Part 1)

Nef Luczon

MILLET* is a 23-year-old transwoman who can be seen often in watering holes in Cagayan de Oro and would venture to other places such as Manila, Cebu and Davao. In some occasions, you’d see her socializing in events, mostly in beauty pageants that usually end up in festive parties. She’s high spirited, she’s happy, and most of all, she has the “moollahs.”

She had a day job alright, but at least thrice every year she goes overseas for a “working vacation.” She goes every night on casinos, sometimes going freelance and often with other friends, to attract potential clients for their escort services. Technology even helped her get in touch with networks, making it easy for her to transact not only with casino goers, but also those tourists who are looking for some adventurous trysts - in exchange for a fee of course. A simple contact with the help of dating and escort service applications then she was able to close deals faster.

Because of her vacations, Millet was able to provide for her family’s needs. She has become more of a bread winner than her father who is working in the government, and in a year's time, her “hard work” will reap its fruition when her younger brother will graduate in college. She would thank the casinos in this Asian city state for it, not necessarily because she’s playing there, but because of the excessive loots coming from gamblers is more than enough to satisfy her family’s needs and her vivid lifestyle.

I have no comprehensive knowledge and experience about casinos, more so about gambling in general, all I know is that with the help of technology, it has thousands of closed circuit televisions to avoid unfair gaming and organized, orchestrated gambling in order to win excessive amount of money.

The CCTVs inside act like a god watching over the trading souls. In casinos, gambling was the main attraction, but it’s the sideline trades happening inside that makes it a thriving industry on its own, the same way how Millet and her friends benefited from it. Transactions that would range from brokering a legitimate business or whether on the kinkier, darker sides - some of the things that CCTVs often failed to see as long as it will not hamper rules and regulations.

A 2016 report from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation showed casinos in the Philippines reported a 30 percent increase every year in “aggregate gross casino revenues” for the three months to the end of June to approximately US $711.68 million due in part to a rise in the popularity of telephone-based proxy betting.

It added that state-run or those wholly or partly owned by the government, casinos reported only a six percent rise annually in gross gaming revenues within the three-month period with US $166.47 million, while their privately-operated counterparts brought in roughly $543.12 million, which represented an increase of some 40 percent, as reported in the Philippine Star, March 2016.

Tourism also played a major role in the influx of revenues, as per the casino-resort City of Dreams (CoD) in Manila reported a big surge in gaming revenue in the quarter ending December 2016, according to a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer on February 2017.

The surge of foreigners coming in the country gave CoD a net revenue in the last quarter of 2016 rose by 78.9 percent year-on-year to the tune of US $144.7 million, the resort’s developer and operator Melco Crown (Philippines) Corp. reported to the Philippine Stock Exchange last February.

Investment, business and political risk research news site, Frontera, also reported that the Philippine’s gross gaming revenue in 2017 is expected to reach US $3 billion and may rise to US $3.6 billion by 2018, and might increase by US $7 billion by 2020. Frontera quoted Rommel Rodrigo, an analyst at Philippines-based Maybank ATR Kim Eng Capital Partners for the projection that may compete Macau and Singapore starting this year.

To sum the figures mentioned, this means that the casino industry is a multi-billion industry. It not only helps generate jobs and tourism, it also greatly helps the tax revenue of local governments where the establishment will be situated.

But the existence of a casino and its promising economic impact in Cagayan de Oro may still be controversial. In the 90s, it was shunned by the local government, but it resurfaced again some two decades later. This is something that Kagay-anons were concerned about.

(* The true identity of Millet was withheld upon her request, some narratives of her personal life were slightly altered to avoid familiarity to readers who might have known her personally)