The Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance board will stick with the cap of some 900 poker machine fees once licensing for new poker machines discontinues after April this year.
SHEFA board vice chair Jose Mafnas said whatever number of poker machines remains after April 2015, that will be the number that SHEFA will stick with.
According to SHEFA board member Juan Tenorio, there are some 900 poker machines left on Saipan and whatever revenue is raised from that, SHEFA will have to be content with that for now.
“The machines will remain and we’re not sure if new pokers are going to come up before April, but we will stick with whatever we can,” Tenorio said.
The casino law, Public Law 18-56, Section 2302(d), states that “after April 2, 2015, no new or additional licenses for poker, pachinko or similar amusement machines, but not including electronic gaming machines as defined in 6 CMC 3154(a)(4), shall be granted or allowed to operate outside of the approved casino establishment, hotel, or La Fiesta within the Third Senatorial District.”
However, all licenses issued for poker, pachinko, and similar amusement machines that began operation prior to April 2, 2015, shall be allowed to continue to operate.
That means SHEFA will have to rely solely on the revenue brought in by existing poker machines. And with poker arcades slowly being phased out from villages, there is a possibility that SHEFA will run out of funds in the next couple of years.
Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, who attended SHEFA’s latest board meeting, expressed concern about SHEFA’s funding.
“We will try and discuss later on how SHEFA might need to obtain funding in the future,” Apatang said at the meeting.
Lawmakers appropriate some $3 million in poker license fees to SHEFA every year.
SHEFA provides financial assistance to some 800 or more students both on and off-island.
Last December 2014, the Saipan and Northern Island Delegation appropriated more than $3 million for SHEFA.
According to SHEFA administrator Merissa Rasa, the $3 million will be used for awards and scholarships and $100,000 will cover SHEFA operations.