Playing with fatal fire


When dealing with a sweeping issue like casino, it pays to study and learn what must be understood thoroughly before we jump from the pot right into a sizzling frying pan.

Without begging the issue, I’ve done some careful reading of a certain special report to the New Jersey Casino Gaming Control Commission. It pertains to joint ventures in the casino gaming industry in Macau.

The report says there are 29 casinos in Asia’s gambling mecca associated with Asian organized crime or what’s known as the “triad.” Ooops! Is this why Gov. Eulogio Inos spouted that casino in Macau is an entirely different gaming industry from Vegas? Is it his and legislative cabal’s agenda to corrupt and turn the island into a haven for Asian organized crime?

There was a change in the operations of casinos in recent past (decentralization) that allowed organized crime to slide into the gaming industry in Macau. It’s known as the “VIP Room” where triad bosses moved in and controlled hotel bookings, ancillary services including drugs, prostitution and protection. Their role turns the gaming industry into a “lawless space.”

A report prepared by the Library of Congress observes, “Top individuals in the triad structure often have established reputations as legitimate businessmen.” But its influence and control is far worse than the tentacles of the largest giant squid. I’m sure that most decent folks here prefer retaining “island sensibilities” of peace and tranquility than becoming slaves of wealthy criminal organizations.

Do I trust the Lottery Commission? Absolutely not! None is equipped with the wherewithal and only one has the gravitas (integrity to leadership) to fulfill the task through to completion. It deals with strict adherence to guarding and ascertaining commitment to corporate regulatory integrity, a fiduciary duty the commission is likely to second-guess.

The casino law is terribly written, so revealed in all its shortsightedness or lack of symmetry (logic). It requires investors to deposit $30 million even before the Lottery Commission does due diligence with subsequent determination of award of license. Please save yourself the self-torture of failing to do due diligence. You must inform applicants of the stake at hand given that the law could easily be shot down this November. Do they still wish to make their deposits? If so, then it’s our money for braving situational issues it must have taken seriously.

Pro-casino cabal is focused on dinky fees as to even lower taxes to 17 percent. Isn’t it in taxes that casinos make their money? Goes to show the lack of percipiency on the issue as to brave another kamikaze or suicide. It’s a bad law and this is our last opportunity to show the “walking dead” on the hill that we are ready to take back our island. Sign the petition to repeal the law in the interest of protecting and forging brighter tomorrows for our children!

Stormy casino tidings

The banner headline declares, “Junket figure disappearance shakes Macau’s gambling industry,” according to a story in the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal written by Kate O’Keefe.

“Investors in the world’s gambling capital could be out $1.3 billion following the disappearance of a junket operator.” The disappearance of the junket figure that owes $1.3 billion U.S. dollars “is roiling the largest casino market and putting a spotlight on the opaque network of middlemen who drive nearly two-thirds of the Chinese territory’s gambling revenue.”

“Unlike other gambling hubs like Las Vegas, Macau depends on junkets for many of its customers. These companies bring high-spending gamblers to the casinos from mainland China, issue them credit and collect players’ debts in exchange for commissions. The system took root there because the Chinese government imposes restrictions on how much cash its citizens can take out of the mainland and because gambling debts aren’t considered valid inside China.

“Huang Shan, a junket operator active in Macau’s gambling industry for around four years, disappeared sometime last month, according to several senior casino and junket industry executives investigating the matter. Mr. Huang’s disappearance leaves investors struggling to recoup up to $1.3 billion, they said.

“Mr. Huang had developed a large business by offering investors payouts of 2.5 percent a month, higher than the industry standard of 1 percent to 2 percent, said some of the executives. Junkets operate much like banks, taking cash from investors and lending it out to gamblers. Many investors agree to fund that lending in return for fixed monthly dividends.

“People from Macau’s junket industry have periodically disappeared with large debts before, and ‘the market didn’t even skip a beat,’ said a senior casino executive investigating the situation. But the person said that this case could be different because of the enormous amount of money involved. ‘At least 100 people are looking for this guy,’ said an investor in one of Macau’s largest junkets.

“Regulators around the world have expressed concerns about the junket industry, in part because the companies disclose little detail about their ownership structures, operations or customers.”

NMI’s fiscal crisis

With a cumulative deficit of over a billion dollars (while continuing the usual habit of deficit spending,) we quiz if the growing financial straits have any chance of realistic improvement moored on a set of fully thought out plans. Wish I could yell a loud “yes” but a truckload of “no” are on the bed of my Low Boy.

The annual revenue is projected at $140 million for fiscal year 2015, a not-so-very-encouraging indication that would enable the CNMI to wiggle itself out of the depressive and filthy financial swamp of bankruptcy. You remove $50 million for the Fund settlement agreement and there’s $90 million left for everything else.

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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