New poker parlors are no longer allowed to operate within 200 feet of schools, churches, parks, playgrounds and Laundromats on Saipan, while existing poker businesses within the 200-ft. radius will have up to four years to relocate under a new local zoning law that Gov. Eloy S. Inos signed on Friday.
The Legislature didn’t receive until yesterday copies of this and two other new local laws that the governor signed last week.
The number of licensed poker machines on Saipan is estimated at between 400 and 500.
“This proposal to move poker machines away from schools has been pushed for so many years and I’m glad it has finally become law. I thank my colleagues and the governor for making sure it is done,” Rep. Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan) told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
Tebuteb is the author of House Local Bill 18-24, which the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation passed on Oct. 17 with amendment.
The bill is now Saipan Local Law 18-5.
“Businesses are given four years to move out if they’re within the 200 feet but the enforcement after the four-year period is critical. There’s a provision that allows extension of the deadline,” Tebuteb added.
Within four years of the Oct. 25, 2013, effective date of the new local law, at the end of the last full renewal period of license from the Department of Finance prior to the deadline, affected existing poker businesses need to relocate to areas approved for adult gaming machines.
These areas include those designated as “adult business park, tourist resort, mixed commercial, Garapan core, Garapan east, or Beach Road Zoning Districts.”
However, the new local law allows the Zoning Board to approve an extension of the deadline to allow businesses to recoup their investments, among other things.
A request for extension needs to be submitted in writing at least six months prior to the deadline.
‘Adult business overlay zoning district’
The governor signed another Saipan zoning measure, HLB 18-25, which deletes the designation of the adult business overlay district on the sheets of the official Saipan zoning map, paving the way for further developments in these areas.
Vice Speaker Frank Dela Cruz’s (Ind-Saipan) bill is now Saipan Local Law 18-6.
The new law amends SLL 18-4 or the Saipan Zoning Law of 2013, that designated a long swath of land on Saipan as the adult business overlay zoning district.
These cover prime real estate properties, mostly privately owned, from the middle of Garapan to central San Jose along Chalan Pale Arnold or Middle Road.
The overlay district is incompatible with numerous existing uses in the area that include residential homes, office buildings, churches, private schools and apartment complexes.
“Private landowners have expressed their concerns about the impact of the overlay district on the quality of life and their ability to attract potential buyers, long-term lessees, and even short-term tenants,” the measure says.
Tinian casino act
The governor also signed Rep. Trenton Conner’s (Ind-Tinian) HLB 18-27, updating the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Act’s casino gambling tax to adapt to Asian-style gaming and Asian “high roller” gaming market.
Conner’s local bill is now Tinian Local Law 18-5.
Under the new local law, a “premium player” means a casino patron who opens a deposit account with the casino operator with a credit balance of not less than $20,000.
The new law mandates a gambling revenue tax that is equal to 5 percent of the gross gaming revenue for the month from premium players and from gambling amusement machines used exclusively by premium players.
Conner said adopting a tax system that provides incentives for “high rollers” to come to Tinian casinos and gamble instead of going to places such as Macau or Singapore is in the best interest of Tinian people.