Torres backs request to amend local law that doubles the license fees of e-gaming machines
Owners of Club 88, Saipan Vegas willing to pay additional $500 in license fees per machine
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said Friday that he supports the request of the owners of e-gaming venues Saipan Vegas and Club 88 to amend the newly enacted Saipan Local Law 22-6 that essentially doubles the license fees of e-gaming machines.
In response to a question during his regular radio press briefing whether he is willing to repeal Saipan Local Law 22-6 considering the lawsuit and concerns by the owners of e-gaming venues, Torres said he understands that the owners of Club 88 in Garapan and Saipan Vegas in Chalan Laulau are struggling with the new fees. But rather than an outright repeal of the law, Torres appears amenable to the idea of a a different manner of implementing the increase in fees. In a later clarification, he suggests coming up with an amendable solution on fee structure, whether it’s a tiered fee structure, gaming tax, etc.
Torres said he knows that the original intent of that law several years ago was to start at a low fee, which he believes was at $2,500 or $3,500, and that there was supposed to be a gradual tiered increase.
“But here we are. I know that they filed a lawsuit,” the governor said.
MP Holdings owns Saipan Vegas in Chalan Laulau and the Saipan Country Club in Chalan Laulau. Mariana Entertainment LLC owns Club 88.
It was Mariana Entertainment LLC that filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to halt the implementation of Saipan Local Law 22-6.
Torres said he hopes that the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation will return and reassess how the government can keep the company or any other potential companies that will come in.
Torres suggested having a working group to go through a session to address the concerns.
The governor said he hopes that Mariana Entertainment LLC stays here and continues to hire more locals and build business gross revenue for the CNMI.
“So I am amenable to have a working group and come to an amenable increase in fees,” he said.
MP Holdings LLC vice president Bartley A. Jackson wrote SNILD chair Sen. Vinnie Vinson F. Sablan (R-Saipan) last Aug. 18, requesting on behalf of the owners and employees of Saipan Vegas and Club 88 to have Saipan Local Law 22-6 amended.
Jackson said Saipan Vegas and Club 88 are willing to pay an additional $500 license fee per machine for the use by the local delegation. “This fee becomes effective upon each license renewal,” he said.
Jackson said the new tax imposed by Saipan Local Law 22-6 will force Saipan Vegas and Club 88 to permanently shut down and leave over a 100 local people jobless and unable to take care of their families.
Saipan Local Law 22-6 imposed a $2,500 tax or 15% of net gaming proceeds, whichever is greater, on all electronic gaming devices on Saipan, including poker amusement machines within e-gaming facilities or hotels. This is on top of the $2,500 license fee these companies are already paying to the government for each machine. In effect, this doubles the license fees of e-gaming devices.
The owner of Club 88 recently announced that it is holding its planned Aug. 27 closure in abeyance while proposed changes to Saipan Local Law 22-6 are on the table of the SNILD.
Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo, who is handling the Mariana Entertainment lawsuit in Superior Court, has encouraged SNILD and e-gaming venues owners Mariana Entertainment LLC and MP Holdings LLC to discuss the effects of the bill. The next court hearing is on Sept. 16.
The owners of Club 88 and Saipan Vegas also filed an ethics complaint before House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) based on Yumul’s participation in the legislative process that led to the enactment of House Saipan Local Bill 22-8 into Saipan Local Law 22-6.
They said Yumul introduced the bill despite previously acknowledging that he has a conflict of interest because his brother, Ray N. Yumul, is the chief executive officer of their competitor, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC.