The Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco Control Division under the Department of Commerce is ready to tackle new challenges with the emergence of the casino and e-gaming industries, according to ABTC director David R. Maratita.
“Training of enforcers in handling businesses with 24-hour operation like casinos and e-gaming establishments are in the pipeline. We are moving to a new era where 24-hours of alcohol services will happen very soon and so we are in tuned with the changing and emerging business environment out here. We are glad that we have the governor’s full support as well as the Commerce [Secretary’s] confidence in our enforcement efforts,” he said.
To enforce the laws effectively, training for not only the division’s staff but also the licensees and their employees must be given top priority, he said.
“It is part of our commitment to provide training to business owners and employees prior to license issuance, which include the casino and e-gaming staff who are serving alcoholic beverages. If it’s a new business, we train the staff and eventually certify them in responsible serving and handling of alcoholic beverages, which includes certifying licensees engaged in the sale of tobacco and betel nut products,” said Maratita.
ABTC enforcement officer John M. Hosono added, “We also have the community in mind. We educate and bring awareness to students and their parents through PTSA meetings about the laws that concern them. We also reach out to students to further their education about our laws and encourage them to stay away from drugs, alcohol and tobacco, including betel nut.
Speaking before last week’s public service recognition at the Department of Commerce, Maratita said the division is currently recruiting new staff to beef up the enforcement arm of the department.
“We are currently in the process of recruiting additional enforcement officers so that the department will be more sufficient to cover all the new and emerging businesses in the CNMI, including but not limited to, cross-training of officers in enforcing other regulatory aspects under the department such as pawnshop, banking and insurance regulations” he added.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres also expressed support for ABTC’s Enforcement Section. “It is very important when you guys go out there, the authority you have when you give a citation is one that [no one] can question.”
Aside from regulating the sale of alcohol, beverage, and tobacco products in the CNMI, ABTC has also been enforcing Public Law 19-66, the Betel Nut Control Act, which prohibits the sale, offer, or giving of areca nut (betel nut) to any person who is under 18 years old. The newly promulgated rule was recently submitted to the Office of the Attorney General for review. The new regulations will serve as the regulatory compliance guidelines consistent with Public Law 19-66 or the Betel Nut Control Act. The public will be asked to submit public comments once the regulations are set for publication prior to adoption. “As soon as the regulations are in place, the ABTC through its outreach program will conduct business and community awareness of the newly adopted rules surrounding the responsibilities of licensees and their agents with respect to the sale of betel nut products,” said Maratita.
“While the ABTC division continues to grow with additional mandates provided by law, as a law enforcement agency, it is our duty to closely monitor other illegal activities that violate the business and professions codes, which we are working closely with other law enforcement and regulatory agencies in cracking down illegal activities by collaboratively sharing information and resources,” added Maratita.