‘Introduce new casino bill now or wait for NMC survey’

Posted on Oct 12 2011
By Haidee V. Eugenio

Rep. Rafael Demapan (Cov-Saipan) is weighing his options whether to introduce now a new House bill seeking to legalize casino gaming on Saipan or wait for the results of a Nov. 4 Northern Marianas College students’ survey of Saipan voters on the casino matter.

“I want this bill to work for the CNMI’s economic recovery. But at the same time, I don’t want it to be dead on arrival at the Senate so I want to work with them on this for the sake of economic recovery. Without a new industry, government finances will continue to decrease,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune in an interview at his office yesterday.

Just like other pro-casino lawmakers, Demapan believes that a multi-million Saipan casino industry will save the NMI Retirement Fund and help restore 80 biweekly work hours among government employees, among other things.

Demapan said he will merge the Saipan casino bills of Rep. Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan) and Rep. Froilan Tenorio (Cov-Saipan).

Tenorio’s House bill was killed by the Senate last year. Senators said the decision should rest with Saipan voters. Torres’ local casino bill was vetoed by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial on Thursday. The governor said a local bill to legalize casino gaming is unconstitutional.

Demapan said he would like to know, for example, whether those who will participate in the NMC survey favor casino gaming on Saipan or not.

Whether most of the survey participants say “yes” or “no” to Saipan casino gaming, Demapan said he would also like to know how many actually participated in the survey and whether that number represents the entire Saipan voting population.

Sen. Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), chairman of the Senate Committee on Resources and Economic Development Program, said yesterday that the Nov. 4 survey will gauge the view of Saipan voters on casinos.

“Do people care for it?” he said, referring to the actual number of survey participants as well as their responses.

He said the Senate is not totally opposed to legalizing casino gaming on Saipan; all it wants is to give Saipan voters a chance to be heard. “That’s why we support NMC’s survey, which will be done in a professional manner,” he said.

NMC students under the Current Issues class of Sam McPhetres will be conducting the Nov. 4 survey.

Rep. Ray Tebuteb (R-Saipan), chairman of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, said that Demapan’s decision to consider waiting for the results of the NMC students’ casino survey is wise.

“In my opinion, if he wants the Senate to at least consider his bill, he should wait for the survey results. But Demapan can do whatever he wants with his bill. .I am keeping an open mind,” he said.

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