Thank you, Mr. Dela Cruz, for the very well written and lengthy article. Unfortunately, it is riddled with ignorance, speculation, and misinformation. It is also unfortunate that someone with your standing and track record would write something so in-depth without actually doing the research required to establish credibility in the subject matter. It seems to me that influential men such as yourself, men of high regard in the community, should be held to a greater responsibility to produce correct, trustworthy information. A responsibility to help bring solutions to light. Your eagerness to use the word “corruption” is a prime example of the hypocritical behavior displayed by many of the members posting to these threads. Misinformation is a form of corruption, whether it is intentional or not. By misstating the facts to the public in order to sway them to your point of view, you are corrupt. Ignorance is no excuse. Neither is the regurgitation of third party speculation.
Here’s what I know to be fact:
The Lottery Commission’s process—an in-depth background investigation, financial analysis, and leadership vetting—took a couple months. All, with exception of executive sessions, of the commission’s meetings were public. I was at almost all of them, though I do not recall seeing you at any of them. There were two, and only two, applicants (who applied) for the license. Imperial Pacific and Marianas Stars. Both were put under scrutiny, and Imperial Pacific came out on top. A wise choice, considering recent events.
It is not an excuse that the early opening of the temporary training facility is to begin training. This is a fact. The facility provides training for casino personnel, as well as the commissioners, regulators, and enforcement personnel from the Commonwealth Casino Commission. These are the people who have been assigned the task of regulating the casino that we are all so afraid is going to corrupt our island, so perhaps it is a good idea for them to know how the casino works, and how to spot those people who would steal from under our noses. To be fair, you should add the fact that this also allowed the community to begin reaping the financial benefits. That includes the Retirement Fund that I am sure you are or will be a beneficiary of. I guess I am failing to see the negative impact of this decision.
“The legislative minority (about five or six of them), not having the votes to make any worthwhile opposition to the amendments requested by Best Sunshine, stood by the sidelines, helpless and unable to do anything.”
Maybe I don’t understand what you are trying to say here, but, isn’t this the way democratic government works?
I am also confused about the Kan Pacific and BSI statement. You are saying that Best Sunshine should not have the opportunity to bid? That Kan Pacific should not have any competitive bidding? Isn’t the fact that BSI can also bid…competitive bidding? Maybe we can reference IT&E’s land situation for further clarification on this subject.
Public Law 19-95, as passed, states: “The following information to be reported periodically to the Commission by a casino licensee shall not be considered confidential and shall be made available for public inspection:
– A licensee’s gross revenue from all authorized casino gaming activities as defined in the chapter, and the licensee’s gross revenue from simulcast wagering;
– The dollar amount of patron checks initially accepted by a licensee. The dollar amount of checks deposited to the licensee’s bank account…” (italics mine)
Also included on this list is the amount of gross revenue tax, or alternative tax paid, the list of premises and nature of improvement costs and payees, quarterly and annual financial statements, and the identity and nature of services provided by any person or firm receiving payment in any form whatsoever for professional services in connection with authorization or conduct of games conducted at a casino.
Reading further into the law, you will find that the only other information kept from the public is the background information found when the Casino Commission performs its vetting of individual casino employees. Should this be public? Should we publicly show past financial information, criminal records, job, education, and credit history for our leadership? How about DPS, CUC, CHCC, IT&E, etc.? I bet that would be an interesting read.
By the way, our current tax laws (correct me if I am wrong) state that BGRT’s are in fact considered confidential information, and the laws that we have in place mirror those of the federal government. Maybe, being people of such high moral standing, and being prepared to stand tall for the public eye, you should post a couple years of your tax information in your next article.
I will spare you, myself, and the readers of conveying the law in its entirety. I am sure the majority of the public does not need to be spoonfed the correct information. It is a public law. P.L. 19-95 is there for anyone who wants to look into it. Then, and only then, should we make knowledge-backed comments, remarks and/or complaints. In a perfect world, we would all seek out reliable sources to inform ourselves before passing judgment, or trying to spread that knowledge to others. Non-biased information is truth. Anything else is propaganda, as I am sure you are aware. Experience and wisdom is great, but making assumptions in a public forum merely adds fuel to the fire that is building mistrust of an industry that has great potential to help us in our current plight.
Our community has received countless donations, both physical and monetary, from Best Sunshine. They helped with Typhoon Soudelor relief, despite the fact that the company lost tons on revenue, and supported cleanup efforts across the island. Of the 590 BSI employees, 43 percent are local hires and 14 percent are non-local citizens. That is a total of 252 new jobs that BSI has created for our community, and this is just the beginning. Another 35 new jobs were created when the Commission was established. As the casino grows, so will the Commission, again creating new private sector and government jobs. I find it interesting that included in that 43 percent are individuals who have spoken out in protest of the casino. I have personally sat next to those who protested, while they were at the casino, drinking $1 beers.
The 300 remains (300 bones, not 300 individuals) that have been unearthed from the Garapan site are kept in a climate-controlled warehouse, awaiting the carbon dating and DNA testing that Best Sunshine is paying for. Personally, I am excited to learn more about them, and I see this as a great opportunity to potentially learn more about how the ancestors lived and where they came from. Also unearthed from the site were large amounts of unexploded ordnance. There was a sea mine, the size of a full grown man, countless mortar rounds, grenades and ammunition. An extreme danger to any non-suspecting patron, man, woman and child, who happened to be in the vicinity.
The casino industry on Saipan is new. I agree that how it came about may not have been ideal. I agree that the casino has potential for negative as well as positive impact. I also agree that the casino and its investors need to be watched under a microscope. That is the sole purpose of the Casino Commission. It seems common sense that the public needs to support the Commission instead of spreading speculation, rumors, and unfounded accusations of corruption. Even more so to those who do not trust the industry, and those who were against it to begin with. We cannot allow the casino industry to operate unchecked.
The Casino Commission regularly holds monthly public meetings with Best Sunshine leadership and the interested public to address issues in regards to enforcement of MICS (Minimum Internal Control Standards) and CCC implemented rules and regulations and public concerns.
In regards to P.L. 16-46: “Section 3177. Where smoking not regulated. Notwithstanding any provision of this article to the contrary, the following areas shall be exempt from the provisions of Sections 3173 and 3174:
(a) Bars, including open air bars, but not attached bars, at the earlier of (1) an established time when the kitchen ceases servicing dinner meals or (2) 10pm; Page 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 PUBLIC LAW NO. 16-46 HOUSE BILL No. 16-47, HD2, SD1, CCSI provided that smoke from these places does not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited under the provisions of this article.
(b) Private residences, except when used as a licensed child care, adult day care, or health care facility.
(c) Hotel and motel rooms that are rented to guests and are designated as smoking rooms; provided, however, that not more than 20 percent of rooms rented to guests in a hotel or motel may be so designated. The status of rooms as smoking or nonsmoking may not be changed, except to add additional nonsmoking rooms.
(d) Private and semiprivate rooms in nursing homes and long-term care facilities that are occupied by oneor more persons, all of whom are smokers and have requested in writing to be placed in a room where smoking is permitted; provided that smoke from these places does not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited under the provisions of this article.
(e) Outdoor areas of places of employment except those covered by the provisions of Section 3174 and Section 3176.
(f) Enclosed gaming areas of a casino establishment.
(g) Fully enclosed and well-ventilated smoking areas at the departure terminal of Commonwealth airports.
Section 3181. Enforcement.
(a) This article shall be enforced by the Department of Public Health or an authorized designee.
(b) Notice of the provisions of this article shall be given to all applicants for a business license in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
(c) Any citizen who desires to register a complaint under this article may initiate enforcement with the Secretary of the Department of Public Health or his designee.
(d) The Department of Public Health, the Fire Division of the Department of Public Safety, or their designees shall, while an establishment is undergoing otherwise mandated inspections, inspect for compliance with this article.
Where is the outcry for the health and safety of those working at our hotels and bars? More hypocritical nonsense.
As Mr. Propst has so eloquently stated on his Facebook page, the CCC has indeed brought this up with Best Sunshine, and BSI is working to remedy the situation. The Department of Public Health also has a responsibility to uphold its laws (Section 3181. Enforcement. (a) This article shall be enforced by the Department of Public Health or an authorized designee.) Let us hold all parties responsible, rather than singling out the Casino Commission because it is the popular thing to do. I understand that addressing this issue will help with your political agenda, and it’s an incredibly easy way to advance your popularity, but if you are as concerned as you profess on your Facebook page, refer to section (c) above. Once again, as a member of Legislature, as influential as you are, accept the increased responsibility bestowed upon you by the people that voted you in. Why don’t you start by getting out from behind your social networking page, stand up from your bar stool, and do something about it?
The controversial bill that was “rushed” through sat on the table for four months before it was even addressed. Many members of the Legislature didn’t even pick it up to read it during this period. Even the speaker commented on how long the bill was in the hands of the Legislature without action. Then, when it was finally addressed, there was another month of amendments before it was acceptable for the majority vote. By the way, that’s how it works in our government system, correct? The majority rules. I give you my admiration and respect for standing up for what you believed to be the right thing. But you lost. It wasn’t a breakdown of the system. The system worked as intended.
On a side note, for the sake of the public, and so that we all have a better understanding of the subject material addressed in this article, the Casino Commission and the Lottery Commission are two different entities. The Lottery Commission was developed to investigate, interview, and award the licensee. The Casino Commission was established to regulate and enforce the imposed laws as well as the established MICS and Rules and Regulations.
This is a team effort. We, as concerned public, have to be part of it. The entire government has to be part of it. Many of us sit in front of our computers, reading the articles in the newspaper, the rumors, and blames in commentary and letters to the editor, and diversion of responsibilities through social networking, yet we do nothing. It’s always the same group of people rallying to spread the negativity. We cannot take what is said at face value. Seeking out the truth is a good way to start the process.
As I said before, the casino is here, and like it or not, we have to deal with it. The best interest of the public now is to support the Casino Commission and our government as regulatory entities. The laws, rules, and regulations were formed for the sole purpose of looking out for our community. Attend these public meetings and state your concerns, your misgivings, and your questions. The smoking issue is a perfect example. I am a non-smoker. I have been in the casino, and I hate the smell. I agree that it should be a non-smoking area and I challenge our leadership to act. Not talk.
For the sake of everyone involved, instead of standing on your soapboxes, instead of spreading negativity and rumor, speculation and blame, be part of the solution. You know who you are. Have some respect, and truly stand up for your brothers and sisters. At the end of the day, it’s your actions that define you.
Food for thought: If you had an embarrassing situation in a public forum, would you rather someone point a finger at you and yell out “Hey! Look at that guy!” or would you want someone to approach you and discreetly let you know?
Patty A. Cabrera
San Antonio, Saipan