You can’t beat something with nothing


The casino is here. Whatever flaws it has, it’s here and it’s doing more for the people of Saipan than its critics have ever done for anyone but themselves.

Wanting the casino to go away is an insult to the wellbeing and dignity of taotao Marianas. It’s an attack and assault on everything good we’ve experienced directly because of the foresight of our local government and leaders.

Against the whiners and naysayers, farsighted leaders like Ralph Torres and the late Eloy Inos brought a casino to Saipan. Victor Hocog risked his political future to bring us some economic hope in the form of a casino.

I don’t think any of our leaders were in love with casinos. I don’t think any of them would be foolish enough to think that casinos are a perfect business, or that Imperial Pacific is a perfect company. But they knew that the choice they were facing was casinos or nothing.

If you were starving nearly to death, and someone offered you a decent, nourishing meal, one that would feed you for years, would you turn it down because there’s a speck of dirt on it and because the vegetables in it might not be organic and the beef might not be free-range? That’s exactly what casino naysayers are doing. They’re gleefully focusing on imperfections and lording the casino’s every fault over the CNMI people. They should be appreciating and understanding all the real, tangible good that the casino has done for our lives.

Gov. Torres, Lt. Gov. Hocog, and the legislators who stood with them chose between casinos over economic ruin, blackouts, bouncing paychecks, and everything else you might remember from the pre-casino years. They chose our economy over short-term political gain. And they made the right choice.

They didn’t follow the whiners constantly repeating that casinos aren’t perfect. Our leaders aren’t stupid. They know casinos aren’t perfect. Nothing in this world is perfect, maybe other than a cup of tuba wine at sunset by the Godfathers Beach Bar. No business is perfect. No government is perfect. Even no person is perfect. Instead of seeing imperfection, Ralph Torres, Victor Hocog, Ralph Demapan, and our other legislators and executives chose to improve our lives in real, practical ways.

Thanks to casino revenue, landowners are receiving their decades-delayed compensation. Paychecks are on time. Streets are being cleaned, parks are being renovated, and streetlights are being installed. CHC is likely to receive more funding. And more than ever, our local young people have a gamut of jobs to choose from, right here on Saipan.

Some people might not like how good things are. They keep attacking the casino and demand that we hamstring it and shut it down, doing away with all the good it’s brought us.

Maybe those critics don’t need jobs. Maybe if I was an independently wealthy crepe chef I also wouldn’t care about Saipan’s economy. For those of us who can’t make a living cooking crepes on the beach, what jobs are there on Saipan other than what the casino will bring?

It’s the casino revenue that pays for more frequent police patrols in my village. It’s the casino’s CSR effort that conducts beach cleanups. And it’s the casino I can thank for no longer worrying about whether my grandchildren can find jobs here on Saipan.

It’s easy to attack the casino. It’s not perfect. Has any business ever been perfect? I’m waiting for you to name one.

What is the critics’ alternate proposal, if we do away with the casino? Who is going to pay license fees and taxes and hire our kids if not the casino? I’m not sure how many people can find employment as beachside pancake-makers but it can’t be too many.

You want a better industry than a casino on Saipan? What better industry? Where is it? Do you see Google or Apple or Snapchat knocking on our doors to set up their next headquarters here? How many failed proposals have there been? I’m sorry. We’re a tiny remote island. It won’t happen.

Maybe we’ve all been raised to believe that as Saipanese we’re special and deserve the best. And in some ways we do. But as far as major corporations coming to set up shop here? C’mon. There is no “better” industry available for Saipan, unless someone still has the phone number of that monorail guy.

So the choice is casino or nothing. The choice is casino or empty streets, abandoned hotels, delayed paydays, unpaid land compensation, austerity, and layoffs. Nothing in your belly, nothing in your bank account, nothing in your children’s futures.

Maybe the memory of 2005-2010 is a little too distant for some of the newcomers railing against the casino. You might want to ask any of us locals who remember how tough it was. That was what we got before the casino, and what we’d have without it. Nothing.

You can’t beat something with nothing.

Juan Diego C. Blanco
As Lito, Saipan

Juan Diego C. Blanco

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