Protests can’t stop Angeles City casino, says owner - Monday 28th of January 2008

A casino hounded by protests from school officials and students here cancelled its scheduled opening Friday.

But the casino license holder, Emmanuel Jacinto, said it was not because of the protests.

Jacinto’s casino is within the city’s school zone.

He said he was expecting the mayor’s permit to be released next week and that was the only reason the casino opening was put on hold despite its announcement through streamers and flyers.

But Dr. Emmanuel Angeles, chancellor of the Angeles University Foundation (AUF), said Jacinto would not get what he wants.

Angeles said Alex Ozaeta and Andy Lizares, managers of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.-run casinos in the village of Balibago here and in Clark, had called him separately on Thursday to promise "they would not allow Jacinto to operate one (casino) in its present location."

Jacinto’s company, the Emaja Internet Gaming, rented the 200-square meter second floor of the Eloisa Building in the village of Salapungan, the building owner told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

Angeles said he was waiting for Pagcor’s official communication on the controversy on Friday.

He said he would hold the filing of a petition for a temporary restraining order against Emaja until Pagcor’s written assurance comes.

Angeles said he also lobbied with Mayor Francis Nepomuceno not to issue Emaja a permit. The mayor could not be reached on Friday.

The main point in the dispute stems from the casino’s location.

Jacinto said the casino was 206 meters from the AUF and this, he said, was certified correct by the city engineer’s office.

But Angeles said the casino was 153 meters from the AUF, 50 meters from the Philippine Women’s University extension campus, 100 meters from the Montessori School and 50 meters from churches of the Iglesia ni Cristo and the Archdiocese of San Fernando.

"Whether it is 150 [meters] or 200 [meters] or more than that, a casino or any gaming establishment should not be near our academic institutions," Angeles said.

He said his office has been swamped with letters of concern from parents.

Pagcor was still validating the distance, said Dodie King, the firm’s public relations officer. He confirmed that Pagcor gave Emaja a certificate to operate but held it until the license holder gets its business permit.

Jacinto said he would not back off. "All of our papers are legal and in order. Hindi ako patatalo sa ganoon lang (I will not withdraw just like that). I will continue with the business," he said.

The AUF student council warned of a "massive demonstration" once Jacinto insisted with his plan.

The casino, Jacinto said, would only be opened to players 21 years old and above.

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