Monday, February 13, 2017

PCSO-Albay has yet to receive order stopping Meridien’s numbers’ game operation

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 12 (PNA) -- The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) branch office in Albay has yet to receive an order from the central office about a directive stopping the numbers game operations of Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. (MVGC) that competes with the government-sanctioned small town lottery (STL) in Albay, a PCSO official here said Sunday.

Nelly Loyola, PCSO Albay branch manager, said her office has not yet received a communication from the central office concerning published reports stopping the operation of MVGC, a firm that was only authorized to operate in areas covered by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) in Cagayan province.

She said once she receives the order she will refer the directive to the Philippine National Police for immediate enforcement.

MVGC is said to be owned by businessman Charlie Atong Ang.

Loyola clarified that STL is not yet operating in Albay as the PCSO-STL operation is still at the “post approval” stage and firming up its operational requirements.

She said the STL operation was test-run by PCSO in 2008 in Albay but “the operation was short-lived due to some corporate issues it has to address.”

Asked if MVGC is authorized to operate a gaming operation in Albay, Loyola said she is not aware of any PCSO-approved gaming outlet that could operate in the province.

“Meridien is not in any way connected with PCSO,” although she admitted the latter has already approved the franchise of a corporate gaming entity to operate STL in the province, she said.

Loyola, however, begged off from naming the franchise holder pending the corporate post-application approval and while the submitted legal requirements are still being processed by PCSO central office.

Meanwhile, lawyer Gelo Santos, MVGC counsel, in a text message, said it is not true the firm is presently engaged in the illegal numbers games.

He said that while its principal gaming operation of jai-alai is actually based in Cagayan, satellite offices located in various provinces are merely betting stations that are governed and under the control of the local government concerned.

“The license obtained by Meridien enables it to exclusively operate jai-alai, its variants and derivatives in CEZA and free port and in support thereof, to set up wagering stations anywhere in the Philippines as may be allowed by law,” said Santos.

He said the betting stations or off-fronton established have secure a corresponding mayor’s permits. The secured permits are good for one year, from Oct. 31 ,2016 to Oct. 31, 2017.

Santos said presently, the government has already assailed the legitimacy of MVGC’s business operation before the courts of law and the status of the cases has remained pending.

“Unless and until the courts have decided on the said issue with finality, the gaming operation of MVGC, through the permits and licenses secured from CEZA, remains to be valid and effective, as it carries with it the presumption of regularity,” he said.

Santos pointed out that the Games and Amusement Board has also issued a permit to MVGC to operate but without prejudice to the outcome of the decision of the Supreme Court.

As this developed, Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, Albay Provincial Police Office spokesperson, in an interview, said their hands are tied in arresting bet collectors of MVGC due to a temporary restraining order (TRO) secured by the firm pending resolution of the case in the Supreme Court. (PNA) JBP/GVR/MSA/CBD/SSC