The bane of illegal gambling

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Bicol PNP Regional Director Arnel B. Escobal’s recent directive to step up the efforts against illegal gambling in the region prompts a reflection on why gambling imperils the community, and what must be done about this enduring practice.

Calling it a “social menace,” Escobal emphasizes the dark side of gambling, which has been in practice since the time of the earliest civilizations.

On the surface, gambling attracts people because of the anticipation of earning money with little to no effort. There is excitement in what appears to be a low-risk venture, where the gambler has the chance to win a prize, if not earn a few moments of relaxation.

But RD Escobal urges Bicolanos not to get distracted by the thrill of the game. On a deeper level, he argues that gambling undermines “the value of dignified work, perseverance, and thrift.” It gives the impression that one does not have to toil hard in order to earn, but to simply wish for luck and leave everything to chance.

In Republic Act 9287, the Declaration of Policy says that illegal gambling activities are condemned because instant monetary gains from it are equated to success—a false and dangerous conclusion.

This goes starkly against the policy of the State to “ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all.”

“It is likewise the policy of the State that the promotion of social justice shall include the commitment to create economic opportunities based on freedom of initiative and self-reliance,” the same law states.

In his directive, RD Escobal not only gives a nod to the wisdom behind the law, but also acknowledges the other ills that may stem from illegal gambling, such as addiction and other mental health problems, financial difficulties, and even the propensity to dabble in the use of illegal substances.

Indeed, the persistence of illegal gambling activities is a curse to Bicolano society, and a condemnation of it from the region’s top cop is most certainly welcome.

Even more welcome, however, would be for private individuals to genuinely and honestly denounce it—not out of mere compliance with the law, but out of an understanding that it is a bane to the community, that nothing good can come out of the prohibited act.