Sun, Mar 17, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Manila bets big on casino to win place in gambling circuit

The Philippine government and gambling industry wants to lure the region’s many high-rollers to Entertainment City, a group of four mega-casinos that could earn the country US$10bn in revenues

By Cecil Morella  /  AFP, MANILA

The government has further sweetened the offer by taking just 27 percent in taxes off winnings for normal gamblers, compared with Macau’s 40 percent, Naguiat added.

High rollers have it even better, with winnings taxed at just 15 percent.

Naguiat said he saw Entertainment City as the key to the government’s ambitious bid to attract 10 million tourists a year and create more jobs in a country where a quarter of the workforce is unemployed or underemployed.

About 4.6 million tourists visited the country last year, compared with about 14 million for Singapore and 28 million for Macau.

He said that Entertainment City should easily employ 40,000 Filipinos when all four venues are open.

More than 50,000 Filipinos, some of them among the 9 million working in other countries, applied for 4,500 Solaire jobs last year, French said.

About 400 Philippine expatriates were brought back, including dealers and pit bosses from casinos in Macau and Singapore who were given managerial posts.

Others were chefs and hotel staff, including more than 20 from the Emirates Palace of Abu Dhabi, touted as the world’s most opulent hotel.

However, the casinos are stirring controversy in the mainly Roman Catholic nation, with critics saying the government’s embrace of gambling to solve the country’s financial woes is a dangerous signal.

“It gives false hope to people that they can find solutions to their financial problems by gambling,” said Catholic priest Rolly Flores, whose Our Lady of Sorrows church is 3km from the casino. “Only gambling lords thrive when people lose money by gambling.”

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