E-gaming operators file ethics complaint against Rep. Yumul


The operators of Saipan Vegas and Club 88 have filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Ralph N. Yumul with the House of Representatives for introducing a bill that led to its enactment despite previously acknowledging that he has a conflict of interest because his brother is the chief executive officer of their competitor, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC.

MP Holdings, LLC and Mariana Entertainment LLC, which are the owners of Saipan Vegas and Club 88, respectively, submitted Monday their ethics complaint before House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) based on Yumul’s participation in the legislative process that led to the enactment of House Local Bill 22-8.

As of press time yesterday, Saipan Tribune was still awaiting comments from Yumul.

House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) said last night that he needs to meet first with the House legal counsel on this matter.

MP Holdings and Mariana Entertainment said their complaint arises out of the recent passage of House Local Bill 22-8 (enacted as SLL 22-6), which became effective on Aug. 2, 2021. That law, they said, essentially doubles the license fees imposed on e-gaming machines—from $2,500 per e-gaming machine or 15% of gross gaming revenue derived from that machine, to $5,000 per e-gaming machine or30% of gross gaming revenue derived from that machine.

The e-gaming clubs’ owners said Yumul should not have been involved with HLB 22-8. It was Yumul who introduced that bill.

They said that, in February 2021, Yumul clearly understood that he should not be involved with matters that relate to IPI, which is their competitor and where Yumul’s brother, former senator Ray Yumul, is the chief executive officer. The complainants noted that Rep. Yumul resigned from the House Gaming Committee because his brother is IPI’s CEO.

The complainants pointed out that an impartial observer will have no trouble concluding that Rep. Yumul had a conflict of interest when he proposed and voted on punitive legislation that doubled the taxes on MP Holdings and Mariana Entertainment, IPI’s only competitors in the e-gaming market.

They said the rushed passage and cursory review of HLB 22-8 highlight Rep. Yumul’s conflict of interest. They said Rep. Yumul introduced HLB 22-8 on April 13, 2021, and that bill was not referred to any committees. Instead, they said, HLB 22-8 sat for six weeks until June 18, 2021, when it was finally sent to the Mayor of Saipan and the Mayor of the Northern Mariana Islands for comment.

Five days later, they said, at Rep. Yumul’s urging, and without waiting for the 30-day mayoral statutory comment period to expire, the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation passed HLB 22-8 on the first and final reading.

They said HLB 22-8 was not published in the CNMI Register and that Rep. Yumul discouraged further comments on the legislation prior to its passage.

The complainants said no one consulted them regarding the massive tax increase.

MP Holdings and Mariana Entertainment asked the House to inquire into the circumstances surrounding introduction and passage of HLB-8, and, if necessary, discipline Rep. Yumul for violating House ethical standards.

Saipan Vegas Resort and Club 88 consultant Gus Noble stated last weekend that this law renders their businesses financially unstable and could force them to shut down, resulting in the loss of jobs for over 70 Saipan local residents.

MP Holdings owns and operates Saipan Vegas in Chalan Laulau . Mariana Entertainment owns and operates Club 88 in Garapan. At present, these entities are the only active e-gaming companies on Saipan.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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