Designated piñata

Posted on Dec 13 2019

Whatever will the government, the retirees, medical referral, Department of Education, Rota and Tinian, government employees, and many others do for funds if the casino haters win their battle and cause the destruction of this biggest single component of the tourism industry? What will the haters do to replace the million they so quickly blow through up on the hill paying for pet projects and boondoggles that bring in those votes come election time? Where will they find a replacement for their favorite “designated piñata” (credit to Zaldy Dandan), Imperial Pacific? I suggest they won’t find one and have no clue as to how to generate one measly percent of the funds that have come rolling in to government coffers from this favored revenue source. Do they have a replacement plan?

Of course they don’t. They have no clue. From what I’ve seen of their results on the hill to date, the minority bloc party couldn’t organize a block party without help from their kids and a grant from the federal government to pay for it and give them “guidelines” on how to accomplish it. Does that mean I am a big fan and booster of the Republican Party? Not really. I haven’t seen an efficient plan or a well-executed economic strategy come from them either, but at least they don’t want to destroy the one large scale money maker they did bring into the game—casino gaming. And they are trying to move us forward instead of backward.

So where does that leave the rest of us who rely on one or more of the above groups that, in turn, rely on the taxes, fees, penalties, etc. etc. that come flowing out of the casino licensee? Broke. As in without a pot if the minority bloc haters get their way.

I submit that they know there is no replacement at hand and that is what drives their zeal to destroy it. Do they have a plan? Yes, I think they do have a plan to keep the CNMI economy flat on its back and certainly keep it far from reaching financial independence. But that is a theme for another time. Today we need to look at what our realistic alternatives are.

We dragged our feet and waited too long to profit greatly from the now old-hat marijuana for-profit revolution. The quick and agile states and countries have already made the lion’s share of the money that is to be made from that income source. There are so many other, closer, places customers can go for legal pot now that we are out of the running for making substantial money from it. Likewise, in the decade-plus since the demise of the garment industry, leadership here has dragged its feet and done nothing—zero, nada, zilch—to entice another industry to come here except gaming. Without the diversity that a two- or three-pronged economy brings, there will be no long-term stability. Our CNMI economy will continue to limp along paycheck to paycheck, like a laborer down on his luck, if we don’t find a synergistic new industry or two.

So much for the faster roads to prosperity. What we need desperately to do now is forge a talented team, develop a strong pitch and go out and slog until we find and sell a new industry on coming here. As long as the U.S. feds keep our labor pool shackled, we can’t attract a labor-intensive industry but we have some other attributes like major tax advantages that might draw a service or financial industry to us. We have the stability (sort of) of the U.S. courts and monetary systems, we have great weather much of the time. There are many other positives but one thing is for sure—those industries aren’t going to come looking for us, we have to go to them, banging on doors, attending a wide range of foreign and domestic development trade shows, and networking to find that right industry that matches our attributes.

There is one other possibility, we can put on our thinking caps and come up with a new way to use the “loophole” that brought us the very profitable garment business—our ability to import duty-free into the giant U.S. market. If we do none of the above, we will continue to stagnate. This is too nice a place with too many talented people and too many positive advantages to settle for that. Let’s get busy finding ways to support instead of tear down our casino business and let’s find someone to spearhead a well-funded search for another industry or two that is a match with our best features. That is the path to prosperity for all the people of the CNMI. Blindly trying to tear down the casino industry is a lose-lose proposition. Ignore those niggling nabobs who would try to take us down that destructive path.

Thanks for reading Sour Grapes!


“When you’re in a small boat, you can see who’s paddling hard and who’s looking around.”
—Ev Williams

“Gambling is pretty much like liquor, you can make it illegal, but you can’t make it unpopular.”

Bruce Bateman | Author
Bruce A. Bateman ( resides on Saipan with a wife, a son, and an unknown number of boonie dogs. He has owned and operated a number of unusual businesses and most recently worked as the marketing manager for MVA. Bruce likes to read, travel, tinker with bicycles, hike, swim, and play a bit of golf. He is opinionated and writes when the moon is full and the mood strikes.
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