Casino signature drive at Carolinian Utt today

Posted on Apr 17 2012

Proponents of a casino popular initiative will hold an informal gathering today at the Carolinian Utt in Garapan at 5pm to gather more signatures from Saipan voters and to get an update on the number of signatures so far gathered.

At least 2,500 to 2,700 signatures are needed to place the Saipan casino gaming question in the Nov. 6 ballot.

Dr. Jack Angello, who is leading the signature drive, said today’s meeting will allow any registered voter on Saipan and the Northern Islands another opportunity to sign the petition so it can be placed on the ballot.

“The most important aspect of the petition is to get the casino issue before all the voters on Saipan and the Northern Islands, in order to determine whether or not the people really want to currently reject an opportunity to add much-needed revenues to our fast-sinking Titanic economy,” Angello told Saipan Tribune.

He said, “Everything is sinking right now, and there not enough lifeboats to go around and the sharks are circling with smiles on their faces.”

“Just ask the 64-hour government workers and private sector workers who have had their paychecks slashed. Just ask the retirees who are now having their fund placed into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the federal court. Just ask the dedicated friends and relatives who stand on the roadside asking for medical referral donations. Just ask the students, who haven’t seen their scholarship checks since last year. The economy is sinking fast and the casino initiative is only asking that people give casino gambling a chance to help the people of Saipan and the Northern Islands,” he said.

Angello also said he respects and thanks Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan’s (Ind-MP) “guarded support” of the casino initiative.

But he said he “disagrees” with Sablan’s remark that the petition is “shortsighted and that we need to develop things long-term for the Northern Mariana Islands to become a tourist destination.”

Sablan said each casino license holder should be required to bring in an additional 200,000 tourists—inclusive of the gamblers and their families and friends—every year as a condition of renewing their annual license the following year, along with ensuring they pay their taxes.

Angello said “I think the Good Lord has already taken care of the long-term tourist destination thing with the already created beaches, mountain areas, fishing and scuba places, beautiful scenery and weather, etc.”

“All we need to do is to manage those God-given gifts properly and add some man-made activities and excitement like casino gambling to increase the popularity of Saipan as a ‘now’ tourist destination. Again, with the sharks circling us ‘today,’ I think most people want ‘shortsighted’ current solutions that have long-term life built into them,” he added.

Angello also said the “people’s petition to place casino gambling on the November ballot has nothing to do with the governor cutting the MVA’s [Marianas Visitors Authority’s] budget.”

“The governor supports the people petition, he did not create it, and he did not cut the MVA budget in relationship to the petition, which is a product of public hearings and everyday island residents who have major concerns about the economy and welfare of the islanders. I don’t know where Congressman Kilili got that apples-and-oranges information,” he said.

Movers of the signature campaign said that by allowing casinos to operate on Saipan, 80-hour work every two weeks could be restored. Local revenues, license fees and gross gaming revenue tax will be used to help fund the Retirement Fund, the medical referral program, the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance Board and other programs and services on Saipan.

The 22-page local initiative requires a $5 million initial license fee to be paid within 90 days after the license approval and $200,000 in annual license fee every year thereafter.

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