Churches in the Philippines Try to Stop Grand Imperial Casino from Reopening

The Grand Imperial casino in the city of Opol in the Philippines shut down on January 17 over COVID-19 concerns. If it were up to local churches in the area, it would stay that way.

Grand Imperial
Grand Imperial
The entrance to the Grand Imperial casino in Opol in the Philippines. The venue has had a controversial and difficult start since opening last December. (Image: Rappler)

Gambling is often a controversial subject. There are those who consider it an “immoral” activity. The definition of that word, however, is sometimes subject to interpretation. Still, if it were up to some people, casinos everywhere would be shut down.

That won’t happen, but several religious groups in the Philippines want to see one casino in particular disappear. They are driving their opposition home through position papers sent to the government.

Grand Imperial Receives Not-So-Grand Welcome

The Grand Imperial, located in Opol in Barangay Taboc, opened its doors in December of last year. It was just getting warmed up when, a month later, COVID-19 forced its closure. If things go according to plan, the casino will reopen on Saturday.

The Cagayan de Oro Network of Archdiocesan Schools (CONAS) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI, or Independent Philippine Church) Diocese of Libertad don’t want that to happen. Local media outlet Rappler reports that this past Wednesday, they fired off – separately – position papers suggesting the venue stay shuttered.

In the position papers, which were most likely sent via a coordinated effort, the groups don’t want Universal Hotels and Resorts Incorporated (UHRI) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to be able to resume activities at the casino.

We will continue our efforts so that the casino will not operate ever,” asserted local businessman Tito Mora.

More to the Opposition Than Meets the Eye

While the opposition mounted their defense on the grounds of the morality of gambling, there’s likely more to the story. Initially, accusations that UHRI never received the proper local permission to open the casino appeared.

The local community was surprised when a casino opened where they thought an office would be. The Taboc barangay council unanimously approved and submitted a petition to the provincial board asking for a halt to the operation of the casino until UHRI and PAGCOR comply with the requirements.

However, a review found that UHRI and PAGCOR had followed all protocols. Still, the local religious community continued its offensive. It pushed forward with its opposition and is trying to get tomorrow’s reopening blocked.

The same religious groups blocked PAGCOR’s efforts to open a casino in Cagayan de Oro in 1993. That city is only a few miles from Opol, where the new Grand Imperial is located.

UHRI plans on proceeding with the relaunch. However, it will likely have to continue to deal with local resistance.

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