The gunman in the Resorts World Manila rampage last Friday that killed 38, including the assailant himself, and wounded 53 others was among approximately 450 gambling addicts barred from playing in casinos by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. AP, BERNARDO BATUIGAS

450 gambling addicts banned from casinos
Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2017 - 4:01pm

MANILA, Philippines - The gunman in the Resorts World Manila rampage last Friday that killed 38, including the assailant himself, and wounded 53 others was among approximately 450 gambling addicts barred from playing in casinos by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

This was revealed by Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo during the launch yesterday of the state-run agency’s information campaign on responsible gaming to prevent a repeat of the incident.

Domingo told reporters that Jessie Javier Carlos, a dismissed employee of the Department of Finance, had a “Player Exclusion Order” from March 27, 2017 to March 26, 2018 and was in Pagcor’s National Database of Restricted Persons (NDRP).

Pagcor issued the exclusion order last March 24.

Based on a family exclusion application form filed by the gunman’s widow Maria Angelita last March 15 and made public yesterday, Carlos was banned from playing in casinos, specifically of the Resorts World Manila in Pasay City and City of Dreams and Solaire in Parañaque City.

The NDRP is an online list developed by Pagcor that is accessible to licensed casinos and major operators of electronic gambling.

Exclusion orders are filed by family members of the concerned gamblers and, in some cases, the gamblers themselves who opt for self-exclusion.

Domingo said Pagcor strictly implements its Code of Practice for Responsible gaming in all Pagcor-operated gaming areas to prevent gambling addiction and minimize potential harm to individual players in the community.

The agency has also set up a 24/7 hotline and has partnered with help centers in the country to assist those who wish to be rehabilitated from their gambling problems.

Pagcor has also deployed spotters in casinos to identify gambling addicts. Even casino card dealers are advised to help identify potential addicts in their vicinity.

Casinos have psychiatric clinics, too, to assist potential gambling addicts.

To help heighten awareness on responsible gaming, Pagcor has likewise tapped mainstream media, internet and social media to reach its target public.

Signs of gambling addiction

Among the telltale signs of gambling addiction is the daily presence of a player inside the casino, constant transfer from one table to another, heavy losses and large debts from casino financiers.

Carlos reportedly had lost P6 million in one night.

Because of the exclusion order, Carlos was no longer allowed to play in any casino nationwide. On Friday midnight, however, he returned to the casino not as a player but as a troubled gunman.

Domingo noted that aside from being a high roller (high-stakes gambler), Carlos was also a professional gun holder. His license for a 5.56-mm Bushmaster rifle, however, expired on April 19, 2015.

Despite the Resorts World Manila incident, Pagcor is optimistic that it can address the hazards of gambling addiction.

“It is our hope that gaming in the country will remain as a form of entertainment and not as a means to destroy individuals and families,” Domingo said.

DNA exam

As part of the investigations, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde yesterday said elements of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) have taken the DNA samples of Carlos and the 37 other fatalities.

The DNA examination for Carlos, according to Albayalde, was conducted to assure his family that it was he who killed himself at the fifth floor of the adjacent hotel. The DNA samples for the 37 others are for record purposes, in case the next of kin would complain someday that the cadaver they received was not their relative.

The DNA tests also came after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct such.

“I ordered the (examination)… to erase doubts on the identity established by the (Philippine National Police) through the family,” Aguirre said in a text message.

Earlier, the PNP said the gunman appeared to be an English-speaking foreigner who was about six feet tall.

The SOCO said that the DNA result would be out in three days.

Albayalde reiterated that not one of the 37 victims had gunshot wounds.

“Some have head wounds as the burning debris dropped on them, but it was not the cause of their deaths,” he explained, stressing that they died of suffocation.

‘Get rid of casinos’

While investigations are ongoing, Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng (KBLJ) founder emeritus Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz yesterday said the government should stop giving operation permits to casinos in the country because gambling, like illegal drugs, only ruins lives.

Cruz issued the statement three days after the Resorts World Manila attack, hoping to prevent other people from getting hooked on gambling.

“It is quite improbable that the casinos will close themselves because precisely that is where they get their money from, especially the investors. I think it is only the government that can say what to do with gambling, both legal and illegal,” Cruz said.

“The only thing I can say is don’t gamble. Gambling is just like illegal drugs – you need more and more drugs the moment you begin taking drugs. The same with gambling: the moment you start, the more money you need for gambling. It is addictive. The loser is not only the gambler, but his family, employment and savings, as well,” the prelate said.

De Lima dragged

Meanwhile, Aguirre also said that Sen. Leila de Lima is partly to blame for the deaths of 37 casino patrons and employees of Resorts World Manila in the Friday rampage, citing the legal opinion issued by the detained senator in 2014 when she was still justice secretary, removing the authority of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to regulate fire security in casino establishments in the country.

Aguirre said De Lima’s opinion led to the transfer of jurisdiction on fire safety regulation in casinos from the BFP to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

“Because of the said legal opinion, it is the PEZA, a government agency without competence and experience in fire protection, that was given the authority to implement the Fire Code and its implementing rules and regulations on PEZA-registered companies, like casinos,” Aguirre explained to reporters.

Aguirre said this power was not provided in Republic Act 7916 (Special Economic Zone Act).?He believes this could be one of the reasons for the lapses seen in the fire safety measures in Resorts World Manila.?But Aguirre quickly clarified in a phone interview that the senator could be liable only if it would be established in investigations that there was irregularity in the issuance of the legal opinion, which he already ordered the NBI to look into.

For now, Aguirre said he would review the legal opinion and would most probably reverse it. – With Non Alquitran, Edu Punay, Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

 

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