Friday, March 19, 2004

March 19, 2004

Ho, Ho, Ho and Sexual Advisers

Before we speculate on Mike Arroyo's ties with PAGCOR chair Efraim C. Genuino, on Stanley Ho's alleged P700M campaign contribution to GMA or how to apply as a presidential sexual advisor, let us focus on a central issue.

What is wrong with operating a casino anyway? An opinion is that gambling in general contributes to poverty both in the financial and moral sense. I suppose that's true for jueteng, jai alai and maybe even for your neighborhood pusoy dos. In that sense, given that your "target market" are not financially well off, maybe it is a good idea to keep temptation away.

But think Vegas, theme park and tourism - these are possibilities for progress for the country. So let's host all these high rollers. We don't have to play or spend with them. We can provide the hotels, the entertainment and the sites to visit. There is nothing immoral about that. It won't contribute to poverty because those bordering on poverty probably can't afford to be in the place anyway.

So did Stanley Ho visit the country to invest? To tie up with Pagcor? By all means, let him do so legitimately. If he wants to buy into Philweb, go ahead. Just let me accumulate shares first. If you've seen how many on-line casinos there are in the Internet, you'd realize just how lucrative on-line gaming is.

That's the pretty picture.

Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz has a point though when he said that big gamblers, drug lords and kidnappers are also visible do-gooders. He said that in reference to the Angeles University Foundation's (AFU) endowment of a humanities doctorate to Ho for his achievements. It's not exactly a baseless accusation by Cruz. The same gambling lord reputation also preceded Ho's investment entry back in the Estrada administration. It was that reputation that drove the catholic church against Ho, and subsequently, Estrada.

Did Ho really make a campaign contribution to GMA? If so, this blurs the issue. It shouldn't be called an investment but a concession and totally inappropriate at that. Considering the fact that President Arroyo's brother is the trustee of AFU, the situation only becomes more questionable. Don't forget that the administration also earlier denied having welcomed Ho to the country, only to retract the statement later.

For sure, GMA's detractors have highlighted the political color in the issue. After all, mudslinging is scheduled to peak in a few weeks. To brush this off as mere propoganda, however, would be unwise. GMA admittedly is becoming more and more a picture of impropriety.

So what would be the possible impact? An investment per se is politically and morally neutral. In this case, however, the circumstances are questionable. History will also skew perception towards the negative. Remember that the whole Ho bruhaha was a central issue to the BW scandal. The stock market simply cannot withstand another questionable chapter, as confidence is the catalyst to good market performance.

Analyst Recommendation: wait after the elections before welcoming such a controversial character.


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