Bill OK’d to allow poker parlors in select areas

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres enacted last week a local bill that allows gaming machines to be operated within certain areas on Saipan.

Rep. John Paul Sablan’s (R-Saipan) House Local Bill 20-47 intends to allow gaming machines to be operated in areas zoned as mixed commercial but not in areas zoned residential.

The previous law did not allow the operation of gaming machines in mixed commercial areas.

Sablan introduced the bill, now known as Saipan Local Law 20-21, at the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation in late December 2017.

He initially pushed for the bill’s placement on the bill calendar that day, but was met with opposition by majority of the delegation members present. Sablan chairs the delegation.

According to the bill, the amendment to Saipan Zoning Law of 2013 is based on the recommendations of the Zoning administrator, as presented at the Dec. 20, 2017, delegation session to address a “deficiency in S.L.L. 20-12.”

“The amendment will continue to allow the operation of poker machines in portions of areas zoned mixed commercial which are not near an area zoned residential,” the bill states.

The author pointed out in its findings that S.L.L. 18-5, which was later amended, basically killed the poker parlor industry, which is also a main source of funding for the Saipan Higher Education Funding Act.

“Millions of dollars of scholarship funding would be considered to be non-conforming through absolutely no fault of their own,” the bill states. S.L.L. 18-5 sets select zoned areas on Saipan in which the operation of poker machines are permitted.

S.L.L. 18-5 was further amended by S.L.L. 20-12, where poker parlors were allowed to operate within tourist resort and mixed commercial districts on lots abutting or west of Beach Road and Chalan Tomas Sablan, from Afetna Road to Chalan Msgr. Guerrero and on lots abutting or west of Chalan Pale Arnold from Chalan Msgr. Guerrero to Dama de Noche St., as well as in the Garapan Core, Garapan East, and Beach Road zoning districts, if 200 feet away from a church, a laundromat, school, park, playground, or other adult gambling machine business.

S.L.L. 20-21 extended the coverage from up to Dama de Noche St. to up to Orchid St.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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