Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) believes that internet gaming is an avenue for money laundering and is opposing a request for House Bill 22-47, or the Internet Gaming Act of 2021, to be pulled out from the Gaming Committee so the full House of Representatives could act on it.
Confronted by the bill’s author, Rep. Joseph Lee Pan Guerrero (R-Saipan), during recess while the House was on a special session last Friday, Sablan raised a concern that allowing internet gaming in the CNMI could open the floodgates to money laundering.
During the session, Guerrero argued that with the casino industry remaining closed due to the COVID-1i9 pandemic, internet gaming could generate revenue for the CNMI, and that there are investors wanting to establish this type of gaming on island.
“This is revenue generating and…[internet] gaming is the key right now because of the pandemic,” Guerrero said. “This is something that we need to pass. …This is another form [of gaming] that we should tap because there’s a lot of investors willing to open [internet] gaming, but [in the] absence of a piece of legislation, no investors would want to invest here in the CNMI. This is something that we should look thoroughly.”
H.B. 22-47 describes internet gaming as the conduct of gambling games through the use of communication technology that allows a person, using money, checks, electronic checks, electronic money transfers, credit cards or debit cards, to place bets or wagers related to a game.
The bill, first introduced in the 21st Legislature as H.B. 21-31 by then former vice speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero, also calls for geolocation or security measures to prevent those living in senatorial districts where internet gambling is not authorized from accessing it.
House Gaming Committee chair Rep. Edwin Propst (D-Saipan), in response, asked Guerrero to instead meet after the special session to discuss any concerns pertaining to the bill.
“The Gaming Committee is proceeding very cautiously, in the wake of a 93-page FinCen [Financial Crimes Enforcement Network] report, and all the allegations that we have received, all the problems that we have right now with this casino, who is one of the pushers for this. I am concerned,” Propst added.
Guerrero, for his part, stressed that he is not alluding to the casino industry but investors beside the casino.
“This casino industry that we have, it’s a done deal, but these are other investors not pertaining to the casino industry that are wanting to establish the gaming here in the CNMI. They’re coming in and wanting to see what they can to have this [internet] gaming.”
“…This bill is not by IPI [Imperial Pacific International], this is a product of the author itself,” he added.
Sablan insists that the bill is from IPI, and, in a privilege speech, pointed out that internet gaming is “very controversial” and one which has been “expressly requested by IPI in their communications” to the body, which is now the subject of an oversight of the Gaming Committee. “There are serious concerns that are raised by this internet gaming bill that were concerns in the last legislature. Those issues have not gone away and they are the subject of investigation right now.”
Sablan, who also serves as House Gaming Committee vice chair, reiterated that the conversation regarding H.B. 22-47 be continued at the “appropriate venue”—that is at the Gaming Committee, which is scheduled to meet soon.