Seven lawmakers attend casino summit in Manila

No Casino Commission member participating in ASEAN Gaming Summit

Seven CNMI lawmakers are attending a three-day casino conference in Manila, Philippines, that will kick off tomorrow, Tuesday.

Saipan Tribune learned that no member of the Commonwealth Casino Commission is participating in the ASEAN Gaming Summit to be held at the Manila Marriot Hotel on March 21 to 23.

Six lawmakers left Saipan yesterday morning for the casino summit. They are House of Representatives vice speaker Joel Camacho (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Ralph N. Yumul (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Angelo Camacho (Ind-Saipan), Rep. John Paul P. Sablan (Ind-Saipan), Rep. Marissa Flores (Ind-Saipan), and Sen. Corina L. Magofna (Ind-Saipan).

Yumul chairs the House Gaming Committee. Rep. Joel Camacho, and Reps. Angelo Camacho, Sablan, and Flores are members of the committee. Magofna chairs the Senate Gaming Committee.

In response to Saipan Tribune’s inquiry, Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) said yesterday that he will be in the Philippines for his annual physical examination and that since the $2,500 casino summit fee is being waived for all CNMI participants, he will therefore be joining the group.

Corina L. Magofna and Ralph N. Yumul

Manglona, who is a member of the Senate Gaming Committee, said the summit will provide them much needed information from casino industry experts.

In response to Saipan Tribune’s request for comment from other lawmakers who are joining the casino trip, Yumul issued an official statement on behalf of the group.

Yumul said that participating in this summit gives members of the Senate and House Gaming Committees an opportunity to meet with industry leaders around the region to learn how to access and engage new and growing markets.

Yumul said they will also learn about advances in Asian online gaming, blockchain, and how to generate more value on current platforms and the newest trends.

“We need to restart our gaming industry as we look at what our region are currently doing,” Yumul said.

He said it’s a three-day conference and the $2,500 registration fee for each participant was waived for the CNMI.

The lawmakers are paying for their plane tickets, hotel rooms, and other expenses using budgets from their respective offices, Saipan Tribune learned.

Senate President Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan) said yesterday that she does not plan to join the casino conference and that she has other prior commitments.

House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) said yesterday he did not go with the trip because it is a Gaming Committee matter.

Sen. Donald Manglona (Ind-Rota), who is a member of the Senate Gaming Committee, said yesterday that he did not join because he needs to work on the revision to the fiscal year 2023 budget for the government.

Sen. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan), who chairs the Senate Executive Appointments & Government Investigations, said yesterday that she did not accompany the group because her priority is the confirmation hearings. Babauta said it appears to be a huge event, with speakers from all over the globe, including from the United States.

An official of the Palacios-Apatang administration raised a question with Saipan Tribune yesterday as to what relationship the Legislature has with any casino. “They don’t regulate or conduct the business of casino. It’s the [casino] commissioners. Why wasn’t any of the casino commissioners from Saipan, Rota or Tinian invited or informed? Why the Legislature? What business do they have?” asked the official who requested anonymity.

After passing a revised concurrent resolution and budget, and impending austerity for government employees, they still have funding to go on a “junket,” the official said.

“This is hypocrisy at its [worst]. The funding they used could’ve been put to a better use. Like medical referral,” the official said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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