House to act on bill clarifying casino panel oversight

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Posted on Dec 28 2018

The House of Representatives is expected to act on a bill that would clarify the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s powers and make changes in the Commonwealth Code to reflect the commission’s unique role in regulating the new gaming industry.

Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) introduced House Bill 20-82, House Draft 1, Senate Draft 1 or the Commonwealth Casino Commission Amendment. 

The Senate Gaming Committee, chaired by Sen. Justo S. Quitugua (Ind-Saipan) has recommended its passage.

The committee report states that HB 20-82’s purpose is to amend the Commonwealth Code so that the commission’s power and duties would be clarified in regulating the casino gaming industry in the CNMI. “…Pursuant to Public Law 18-56, the [CCC] was established to regulate the exclusive casino license in the Third Senatorial District.”

“Upon confirmation of the members to the CCC, regulations were duly adopted to oversee the casino gaming industry. After several years of implementing and enforcing the regulations of CCC and other permitting agencies of the Commonwealth government, including extensive training attended by CCC, it was pertinent to amend the Commonwealth Code to allow CCC to properly regulate the demands of this unique industry.”

The committee said that a lot of the provisions in H.B. 20-82 HD1 are similar to the statutes enacted in Nevada and New Jersey, states where casino gaming is thriving and that also have regulatory agencies that oversee these activities.

“However, unlike Nevada and New Jersey that regulate multiple casino licenses, the CCC is unique in its regulatory duties as it is mandated to impose regulations within federal guidelines over a sole casino licensee accustomed to the Asian market,” added the report.

“Due to the controversial nature of the casino industry, and to promote transparency and oversight of the casino industry, your committee further amended the bill to ensure that the Legislature retains its appropriation power with regard to the CCC regulatory fund. Although CCC is an autonomous agency, the committee wanted to mandate that all CCC regulations shall be consistent with CNMI laws.”

Quitugua said there are some provisions that allow the commission to set its own rules like travel. “We deleted that and replaced it as recommended by the governor. The Legislature also wants to continuously appropriate their funding and for them to come back every year to justify their funding.”

“We also amended a provision in making all commission employees law enforcers. We changed that section to clarify that only enforcement employees will be considered officers and not all commission employees.”

CCC chair Juan M. Sablan is confident that the bill would go to the desk of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who in turn would sign it. “There were some changes that incorporated our concerns and now we think this is a solid bill. Our concerns were already addressed, so we’re confident the House would act on it unanimously.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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