The Commonwealth Casino Commission will be working closely with the 21st CNMI Legislature and the CNMI Office of the Attorney General in crafting legislation that would clarify and widen its regulatory functions.
The legislation went back to the drawing board after House Bill 20-82, House Draft 1, Senate Draft 1 failed to get the needed three-fourths vote in the House during a lame duck session in the 20th Legislature.
House Bill 20-82, introduced by then-representatives Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, would have clarified some of CCC’s powers due to its unique regulatory powers and oversight of the casino gaming industry.
CCC chair Juan M. Sablan said it is important that they meet with members of the Legislature, especially the gaming committees of both the House and the Senate.
“We have to meet with the new Legislature again and address this issue once and for all. This has been going since day one when we were appointed. We’re trying to help the Legislature and the government to perhaps regulate poker, eliminate crimes, and get some…more revenue for the CNMI,” said Sablan.
He said in a previous interview that they would again push for the measures embodied in H.B. 20-82 in the 21st Legislature. “It is important that we meet with the new Legislature. [HB 20-82] was passed unanimously but got killed after the OAG gave its opinion.”
“…We’re here to regulate and protect the industry and the public. That is what’s important. We’re not yet done and we have to continue this in the [21st] Legislature.”
The legislation that CCC would be working on would place the regulatory and oversight powers of e-gaming, lottery, pachinko, and poker under the commission. The same efforts were also introduced in the 18th and 19th legislatures.
Sablan said poker also needs to be monitored closely. “Personally, [I think poker] is not monitored correctly. They are in our villages with issues on security, lighting, and even equipment. The government has to address that issue and the Legislature needs a bill to put that perhaps under CCC’s responsibilities. We’ve been trained and we have the capability.”
CCC executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero said that if they were given a new regulatory jurisdiction, then they would also need additional funding that would allow them to implement their duties. “When we regulate, we just don’t take the fees and walk away. We regulate, we look at personnel, facilities, and procedures. We look at everything.”
“We need additional manpower for some sort of legislation that may affect the regulatory regime of poker, pachinko, e-gaming, and lottery. Right now, we are only doing casino, but I think it actually makes a good public policy that you put under one umbrella the regulatory functions so you don’t have too many agencies and activities doing the same thing.”
Deleon Guerrero cited Australia as an example where gaming and alcohol are under one regulatory body.
He said there are people that say that it is not CCC’s job to check on labor and immigration issues since some of it fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction. “But if something goes wrong, suddenly that’s your job. What we’re saying is, if you’re going to give us responsibility then give us the ability, resources, funding, and authority to do it. You can’t give us responsibility and expect us to do miracles.” (Jon Perez)