Saipan casino bill referred to a different Senate committee

Posted on Dec 09 2011
By Haidee V. Eugenio

The House bill that seeks to legalize casino gambling on Saipan is now with the Committee on Federal Relations and Independent Agencies, and not the Resources, Economic Development and Programs, which previously led a working partnership with Northern Marianas College students in conducting a casino survey.

Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), as chair of the Committee on Rules and Procedures, assigned House Bill 17-240, House Draft 1 to FRIA which he also chairs.

When asked for comment yesterday, Hofschneider said the bill is “appropriately placed on committee level. Will advice accordingly if there is any significant information to report on the matter.”

The casino bill was assigned to FRIA on Nov. 23.

With the bill assigned to a committee, it will be up to that panel to decide what to do with the casino legislation.

Options could include holding public hearings on it, recommending to the full Senate rejection or passage, or not reporting it out of committee level at all. As of yesterday, there’s no telling what the FRIA Committee would do with the bill, introduced by Reps. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) and Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan).

Last year, the full Senate killed a similar bill that Rep. Froilan Tenorio (Cov-Saipan) introduced.

It would also be up to FRIA to interpret the results of the NMC Current Issues class’s non-binding casino survey which only drew less than 7 percent of Saipan voters. There was only a nine-vote difference in favor of those opposed to casinos on Saipan.

HB 17-240 is the third Saipan casino legislation to be introduced and passed since last year. After Tenorio’s bill was rejected by the Senate last year, Rep. Stanley Torres introduced a House local bill which Gov. Benigno R. Fitial vetoed, saying it’s unconstitutional.

The new Saipan casino bill requires a $10-million casino license fee, and a non-refundable casino license application fee of $250,000.

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