Grand Imperial Casino Reopening Opposed by Churches in the Philippines

Posted on: January 21, 2022, 09:47h. 

Last updated on: January 21, 2022, 12:59h.

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

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)

The Grand Imperial, located in Opol in Barangay Tabac, opened its doors in December of last year. It was just getting warmed up when, a month later, COVID-19 forced its closure.

The casino plans to reopen this Saturday. But several religious groups in the area are working to stop that. They recently drove their opposition home through position papers sent to the government.

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.

Grand Imperial Receives Not-So-Grand Welcome

Two churches are voicing the strongest opposition. Both The Cagayan de Oro Network of Archdiocesan Schools (CONAS) and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI, or Independent Philippine Church) Diocese of Libertad penned letters suggesting the venue stay shuttered.

The casino…is not only perpetuating morally wrong socio-economic principles, but creates a culture of society that anchors on the belief of ‘malas-suwerte’ (bad luck-good luck) rather than on sustainable life earned through good work,” IFI-Cagayan de Oro Bishop Felixberto Calang told Rappler.

The message in the papers was clear: they 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,” said local businessman and supporter of the opposition, Tito Mora.

According to Calang, the casino is located 300 meters from an IFI church. He says the casino is an insult to their religious practices, which condone gaming.

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.

UHRI plans on proceeding with the relaunch.