‘Rezoning bill contradicts law on poker arcades

The Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation passed Friday a bill that allows poker arcades to operate in previously non-conforming lots in the southwestern side of Saipan.

In a vote of 15-4, the delegation passed Rep. John Paul Sablan’s (R-Saipan) House Local Bill 20-48 despite opposition from the Commonwealth Zoning Board.

H.L.B. 20-48 rezones lots abutting the road beginning from the intersection of Koblerville Road and Chalan Msgr. Martinez Road to the intersection of Koblerville Road and Adobu Drive; all lots abutting the road beginning from the intersection of Chalan Msgr. Road and As Perdido Road to the intersection of Chalan Msgr. Road and Tun Joaquin Doi Drive; Kagman Drive and Gapgap Drive to the final lot before Kagman Drive curves eastward, and Garapan core, Garapan East and Beach Road zoning districts into “mixed commercial,” which allows the operation of poker parlors.

Rep. Ed K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), Rep. Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan), and Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) all voted against the bill’s passage.

According to a Dec. 19, 2017, communication from the Commonwealth Zoning Board, H.L.B. 20-48 contradicts Saipan Local Law 18-5, which intends to move poker parlors away from villages and into designated zones.

“The mixed commercial rezoning will not only permit the existing poker establishments to continue to operate in and among our residential villages, but it will also allow back the operation of poker establishments who recently vacated these areas,” said Zoning board chair Diego Blanco.

“This bill will allow three poker [arcades] to continue to operate in Kagman, one poker [parlor] in Koblerville, and three poker [parlors] in As Lito Area. This bill will further allow new poker or adult gambling machine businesses to operate,” Blanco added.

During discussions on the bill, Sablan said the intention is to protect a potential $1.44 million in Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance funding. He said that, at $12,000 in annual renewal fees apiece, the bill protects a major source of funding for SHEFA.

There are about 120 poker machines in the CNMI.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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