Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) said Thursday that a newly-passed House bill legalizing casino gambling on Saipan will be referred to the Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development and Programs, and so far there’s no telling whether the Senate will pass or kill the measure.
“It will be up to the committee to decide what to do with the bill,” said Manglona.
The Senate killed last year a similar House casino bill, saying that the matter should be decided by Saipan voters.
Sen. Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), REDP Committee chair, said Thursday night that the panel will have to “review first the bill then we will see what the committee decides to do.”
Although a survey was done by some Northern Marianas College students on Nov. 4, that survey was non-binding and only less than 7 percent of Saipan voters participated. Moreover, there was only a nine-vote difference in favor of those opposed to casinos on Saipan.
The Senate had requested the NMC Current Issues class under Sam McPhetres to conduct the casino survey.
Manglona said it will also be up to the committee to “interpret the result of the survey.”
The Senate leadership is thankful for the NMC students under McPhetres’ class for conducting the survey.
“I am really proud of the students and appreciate their volunteerism. It’s just unfortunate that only a few Saipan voters participated in the casino survey,” Manglona said.
Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota) said Thursday he has yet to see the casino bill that the House passed on Tuesday, while other senators do not want to comment on the bill as of this time.
Many of the House members who voted “yes” on the casino bill on Tuesday cited the need to restore 80 work hours biweekly, save the NMI Retirement Fund, and save the economy that now only relies on tourism that is still struggling.
Rep. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) and Rep. Stanley Torres’ (Ind-Saipan) House Bill 17-240 was the third Saipan casino legislation to be introduced and passed since last year.
The first House casino bill was killed by the Senate. Later on, Rep. Stanley Torres introduced a similar measure in the form of a Saipan “local bill” so that the bill won’t need Senate approval. But while the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation passed the local bill, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial vetoed it, citing its unconstitutionality and recommend that a casino bill be introduced in the form of a House bill.
The new Saipan casino bill requires a $10-million casino license fee, and a non-refundable casino license application fee of $250,000.