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No to casinos in Quezon City

I’m bothered by the recent news that a high-rise gaming hub or casino will  be set up in Quezon City beside Ayala’s Vertis North commercial complex.

The location of this second Solaire-branded integrated gaming resort is worrisome in that it is very near the Philippine Science High School (PSHS)—the country’s premier science secondary school that produces top-notch scientists and innovators.

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The school is in an institutional zone, while the casino is in a commercial zone; by the rules of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board and pertinent laws, these two proximate zones are considered compatible. However, the close location of these two structures to each other would be considered incompatible when the question of values is considered. The presence of the casino could create curiosity and consciousness in the impressionable minds of young students, which could lead in their adult years to a proclivity to gambling and related problems such as heavy indebtedness, family instability and loss of productivity.

It is not only the PSHS that will be affected by the casino. The gaming resort would only be a few minutes’ ride from such elite schools as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila and Miriam College, whose students could be lured by the glitter and thrill of the casino. Then there are the young workers in the many BPO joints around the

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area who could be tempted to squander their hard-earned money after work, instead of saving it for necessities or for business ventures.

In even greater numbers, there will be the thousands of commuters from Metro Manila who will converge at the MRT-7 main station in Trinoma after work to take the cheap train ride to their abodes east of the station. With the gaming resort just a few minutes’ walk from the station, they can also be waylaid, instead of going home straight to their families.

Perhaps the owner of the resort has these costumers in mind when he revealed in a news item that he planned to build a “mass-market focused casino” in the area he brought from the government. But there are also other sites for his venture, such as the Subic Bay Freeport or the Air Force City in Clark, which can cater even to high-rollers from abroad.

Quezon City prides itself as a top educational and BPO hub, but this wholesome image can be destroyed by the presence of a casino. In fact, Quezon City has already the intellectual base to develop itself as the Silicon Valley of the Philippines with its array of universities and colleges along Katipunan Avenue and Aurora Boulevard, and research institutions along CP Garcia Avenue.

We should go beyond the letter of the law and interpret the concept of land use incompatibility in a broader sense. Like the case of the casino and PSHS, there are many cases in the city where the narrow concept of incompatibility is employed—for instance, allowing funeral parlors to be located beside or across restaurants, hospitals and health clinics simply because they are also similarly classified as commercial structures.

We cannot afford the risk to the values of our youth in exchange for pecuniary returns. The mark of rich countries and rich people is their tendency to save and to take calculated investment risks—not to engage in foolhardy gambling.

In desirable risk-taking, the potential consequences of choices are considered. But in gambling, there is only guessing and lack of control over the potential outcome. And, in the casino, the only predictable outcome is that the “house” always wins. Even President Duterte knows this when he said he hates not just drugs, but also gambling.

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In a cost-benefit study, it is hard to quantify the long-term costs casinos can inflict on our youth and work force, but they will definitely be much higher than the short-term benefits of revenues and jobs to be gained from such gambling operations.

Meliton B. Juanico, a retired professor of geography at the University of the Philippines Diliman, is a licensed environmental planner and is active in consultancy work in urban and regional planning.

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TAGS: casino, editorial, education, news, opinion, Philippine news updates, Philippine Science High School. Gambling, Quezon City, sin, Solaire, Vertis North, vice
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