Despite the passage of a video lottery bill now with the governor, the House and Senate are still pursuing an electronic gaming legislation whose conferees could meet as early as yesterday.
Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) appointed on Monday night three Senate conferees on the electronic gaming measure: Senate vice president Victor Hocog (R-Rota), floor leader Ray Yumul (Ind-Saipan), and Sen. Frank Borja (Ind-Tinian).
Their counterparts in the House are Ways and Means Committee chair Tony Sablan (Ind-Saipan), Rep. John Paul Sablan (Cov-Saipan), and Mario Taitano (Ind-Saipan), chair of the Special Committee on Retirement Fund.
Sablan and Hocog separately said Tuesday they could start meeting yesterday, Wednesday.
The conferees will hash out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the electronic gaming bill that Sablan authored, and recommend passage of a “compromise” bill.
Electronic gaming machines will be installed only at Saipan hotels with at least 100 rooms or those attached to a golf course.
Hocog, in an interview, said the electronic gaming bill will surely pass the Legislature, whereas the Saipan casino legalization bill remains “up in the air.”
“Let’s see how the two revenue-generating bills—electronic gaming and video lottery—will perform, and we may not need the Saipan casino bill anymore,” Hocog said.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos has been asking the Legislature to send him bills that will generate new sources of revenues to help the NMI Retirement Fund and other public service programs.
On Monday, the Senate passed the House video lottery bill, sending it to the governor for action. Once the bill is enacted into law, it will allow video lottery terminals at certain hotels and airport departure areas.
Some lawmakers have raised questions whether the video lottery and electronic gaming bills conflict with each other instead of complementing each other.
Press secretary Angel Demapan said both electronic gaming and video lottery allow the same type of game but the difference is in the legal structure.
He said electronic gaming is run by the private sector with a licensing fee paid to the government, while video lottery is run by the government with significant controls on all aspects of gaming activity so as to accomplish specific government objectives such as economic development, integrity in gaming and tourism development.