Governor says they are now looking at viability of casino industry
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said Friday that the request of the Commonwealth Casino Commission to appropriate $1 million to the CCC from the annual casino license fee that Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC paid two years ago is not an urgent matter.
In response to a question during his radio press briefing about CCC’s request for $1 million budget to avoid the commission’s shutdown by April 2022, Torres said the administration will take it one step at a time and has to look at the viability of the casino industry. He said they will be communicating with CCC executive director Andrew Yeom as well as the CCC board on how the casino industry can move forward in the next six to eight months.
“I don’t think it’s urgent to put a million dollars right now into the [CCC],” Torres said.
Last month, CCC board chair Edward C. DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom asked Torres and Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation chair Sen. Vinnie Vinson F. Sablan (R-Saipan) for assistance in allocating and appropriating $1 million from funds available to the 3rd Senatorial District (Saipan and Northern Islands) from the 2019 annual casino license fee. DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom said the $1 million will cover CCC’s expenses for five months, from May to September 2022. They pointed out that since IPI failed to pay its 2020 casino regulatory fee, CCC continues to suffer from a severe budget shortfall.
Last Oct. 4, Torres informed the Legislature that $8 million out of the $15 million of the sixth-year casino license fee that IPI paid to the government two years ago is available for appropriation.
Torres said $1 million is available for appropriation to the First Senatorial District or Rota, $1 million to the Second Senatorial District or Tinian and Aguiguan, and $6 million to the Third Senatorial District or Saipan and Northern Islands.
The governor said the appropriation of $6 million for the Third Senatorial District of Saipan will be allocated as follows: $2 million for the Sugar Dock construction and repair, $1 million for the Northern Marianas College, $750,000 for Precinct 1, $750 for Precinct 3, $750,000 for Precinct 4, and $750,000 for Precinct 5.
Torres said Friday that he believes that they should continue to look at other options such as the proposal for an e-gaming industry. “Maybe that’s something that we can look into, or perhaps just seeing how we can maximize CCC’s role, whether to start monitoring the poker industry and some of the amusement activities,” Torres said.
Yeom earlier disclosed that based on his study and market research, if the Legislature can pass an internet gaming bill this year, his projection is that the CNMI will generate $28.14 million in gross gaming revenue in 2022 alone.
Rep. Joseph Lee Pan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan) has filed House Bill 22-47 that will allow senatorial districts to establish and regulate internet gaming. From 39 employees last May, CCC’s number of employees has dwindled to 12 due to the termination of several employees as a result of budget constraint and resignation of others.
Yeom recently filed four complaints against IPI, each of them seeking the immediate revocations of IPI’s exclusive Saipan casino license, for alleged unwillingness to comply with CCC’s final order in four enforcement actions that were entered over five months ago.