TO SECURE RETIREES’ PENSION PAYMENTS:
Rep. Lorenzo Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) has introduced a bill allowing for e-gaming activities in the Garapan area. House Bill 19-150 aims to provide a “significant and permanent” source of funding for retirees’ 25 percent pension payments.
“Currently, there’s only three [e-gaming] licenses that have been issued,” Guerrero said in an interview. “I felt that we could expand it so we could generate more revenues.”
A total of 10 e-gaming facilities are authorized on Saipan.
By opening up specific areas of Garapan to e-gaming, the bill aims to “allow e-gaming at the levels that were originally intended” when 10 licenses were authorized.
Guerrero has set a license fee for electronic gaming machines or electronic table games in the designated Garapan area at $6,000 per machine, or 15 percent of net gaming proceeds, whichever is greater.
“That was the fee required but in previous legislation it was reduced,” Guerrero said of this fee.
“When the late Gov. [Eloy] Inos noticed that the $2,500—he thought that was a little bit small and he recommended that we increase it 100 percent. And so we did. More than 100 percent,” Guerrero said.
“In essence, if we add five additional licensees, we are looking at projecting to collect an additional $4 million per year.”
Guerrero sets up conditions for licensees which, among others, require e-gaming establishments to dedicate and commit a minimum of 4,000 square feet strictly for e-gaming devices, and operate no less than 30 but no more than 250 e-gaming machines per location.
Guerrero acknowledged that there are “quite a few” interests in opening e-gaming activities in the core zone and in the tourist district, confirming that he has met with some of them.
E-gaming activities are only allowed on Saipan in the enclosed area of a hotel or resort but Guerrero’s bill allows e-gaming in facilities within the “Garapan Core Zone,” which through the bill will be extended to certain portions of the Garapan Tourist Resort Zone, due south of the core zone and both the west and east sides of Beach Road.
This area will be known as the “extended Garapan core zone” located within the corner of Garapan Street/Rte. 308 and Beach Road/Rte.30 at the southeast corner (to set the board and the areas extending north toward the Garapan Core Zone); the corner of Orchid Street/Rte. 319 and Coral Tree Avenue at the northwest corner (Fiesta Resort and Spa) extending to the Garapan Core Zone and extending south to the southern corners define; and all points west/seaward to the high water mark and extending north to the border of Garapan Core Zone and both the west and east side of Beach Road within this specific area.
“These particular locations are zones for this particular activity,” said Guerrero. “So there is no negative impact on the location…It’s all tourist locations. It also provides night entertainment for tourists. And that’s what [the Marianas Visitors Authority] had surveyed and most of the tourists said we are lacking night entertainment for our tourists.”
“So basically it is a revenue generating bill, it will increase our annual budget, and the government is in the bind of deficit and that will eventually help out the administration,” Guerrero said.
The House minority bloc has signed on to sponsor the bill, with some majority bloc support in Reps. Edwin P. Aldan (Ind-Tinian), Glenn L. Maratita (Ind-Rota), and John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan).
Aldan, for his part, says the bill will “legitimize that we can make the funds to take care of the 25 percent [pensions] once and for all.”
Aldan hopes that the CNMI government and the CNMI Settlement Fund trustee Joyce Tang goes back to court and resolve the payment issue.
Instead of a 75 percent and 25 percent pension split, Aldan said, of which the former is mandated to be paid out of the annual local budget and the 25 percent by the administration, Aldan hopes that the government take the portion of revenue projected by the proposed and put it together with funds set by the Saipan casino law for the three senatorial district “and pay off this thing at 100 percent.”
“The government is saying that when they settled with the Settlement Fund that they can only afford the 75 percent pension. Now we are short by $1.8, which was the third senatorial district’s [pensions],” Aldan said.
“If they take that [from the] third senatorial district, which will be taking a major chunk of this legislation, it will take care after all the 100 percent of whatever is the 25 percent” pension amount.
“Why are we not admitting that we do have the funding to take care of it 100 percent? We don’t have to wait for Saipan delegation, the Rota delegation [to find money for retirees]. Let’s take this whole money and lump it in there so we can secure our pensioners.”