For quite some time, the ongoing construction project behind a major shopping mall here in GenSan has caught the curiosity of Generals commuting around the area. Located behind Robison’s Place and across the street somewhat from the Socsargen County Hospital, the blocky structure could have been anything from a Cineplex to a large-scale convention center or events venue. But as construction came close to completion its purpose was revealed: a casino under the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation. When word got out, opponents of organized gambling led by the Catholic Church made plans to hold a prayer rally in protest against’ the newly-opened casino’s operation. reports that no less than six catholic parishes assembled around 2,000 participants in a prayer rally in front of the Grand Imperial Casino not far from J. Catolico Avenue in Lagao, behind Robinson’s Place GenSan. The games and amusement place has only begun its soft opening period this Tuesday, Ferbuary 25, and the prayer protest was carried out into the evening of that day, according to Diocese of Marbel vicar general, Fr. Angel Buenavides.

Fr. Buenavides reiterates the Philippine Catholic Church’s general stance on officially established casino facilities even under the auspices of PAGCOR, that any boost to the local economy these game centers might bring is too little compared to the erosive damage their presence will have on social mores. A blatantly large casino operation like the GenSan Grand Imperial, the rally participants argue, is a lure for unsavory activities like prostitution to congregate to the area, hoping to take advantage of gambling tourists from out of town. Buenavides also holds suspect the fact that PAGCOR pointedly did not include the local churches in consultation for citing the casino almost right at the urban center of the city.

The bigger fear, according to the Diocese of Marbel, is that the sort of gambling tourists the new casino might attract to GenSan are from China. Such a development could lead to a snowball effect in that new Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) might open in the periphery of the Gran Imperial casino. Quite recently these POGOs and their Chinese operators have been in hot water with regulators for their abuses of Filipino and even Chinese workers in their employ.

To that end, Marbel vicar general Fr. Angel Buenavides warns that the GenSan parishes could potentially intensify their protests against the newly-opened major casino within the city, and that eventually they might be joined by representatives from concerned public and private sectors, as well as representatives from the Muslim community, in order to oppose the continued presence of a gambling establishment right here in GenSan.

Image courtesy of Licas News

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