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Gambling, Philippine Style

Gambling always presents a moral dilemma. This is more evident in a predominantly Catholic nation like the Philippines.

Most of the Catholic countries in the world have a democratic type of government. This allows the people to elect their leaders, who in turn, must act as the voice of the people. The Philippines is one of the countries who practice democracy yet embrace Catholicism with fervor. The people's conservative values sometime clash with the freedom that democracy brings. This is where gambling becomes an issue.

It has always been sublimely understood that, although government officials are the leaders of the country, it is the Catholic Church whom the people usually look up to for genuine guidance. As the old adage says - What may be legal may not be moral.

Gambling in the Philippines is, for the most part, legal. There are a few government sanctioned casinos in Manila alone. Cockfighting is legal. Horseracing continues to be very popular after more than a century in existence. The Lottery has become a nationwide craze. Almost every mall in the country has a Bingo hall.

The Catholic Church always denounces these establishments, condemning them as immoral and ultimately, sinful. This puts government officials in somewhat of a quandary. Who do they please? The people who elected them to make the right decisions or the Church which, come election time, is a powerful influence on the voting public?

It is given that most of the patrons of the gambling institutions are themselves Catholics. This however, does not deter them one bit from pursuing their beloved casino games. Their reasoning - If the government allows these forms of gambling, it couldn't be all that bad.

Besides, in a poor country like the Philippines, it may even give the people an opportunity to earn a few bucks (or a few million, if we talk about the lottery) now and then.

Another big point of debate is the issue of hypocrisy. The Church always states that they have a consistent and concrete stand against gambling. The problem is they do support some types of gambling. Bingo sessions are held in lots of parishes from time to time. The Church also holds raffle draws during special occasions on the Catholic calendar. Their explanation is that these Church-sanctioned 'games' are not gambling.

Well, the technical definition of gambling is to play a game for money or to bet on an uncertain outcome, a lot of people believe that bingo fits very well into this definition. The Church then explains that it is not gambling if the proceeds go to charity. The government then contends that a significant fraction of the casinos profits goes directly to charity, is it not gambling then?

This argument may go on for a long time. In fact the issue of morality and gambling may never be resolved. If the people patronize something that supersedes their religious beliefs, they probably think it's worth it.

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