Guam mayor says banning gambling will harm communities
The mayor of the Guam town of Santa Rita says a bill that will ban gambling will seriously hurt communties.
The mayor of the Guam town of Santa Rita says a bill that will ban gambling in the territory will seriously hurt community groups in his town.
Last week, the Senate unanimously voted to approve Bill 19, which will outlaw all gambling on the island once the public hospital's debt has been paid off.
But Dave Alvarez says the bill will affect popular community activities like bingo and cockfighting, which he says are used as fundraisers for sports equipment and field trips which the government doesn't provide.
Mr Alvarez, himself a cockfighter, told Jamie Tahana the activity funds a lot of community events in Santa Rita and the bill will hurt that.
DAVE ALVAREZ: In my two cockfights I usually pull in $3,000 in December and in May. And that $6,000 can help my community. Like little league baseball, that can help with their entrance fees. And humanitarian - people who are being referred off-island to seek help, medical problems, I give money. And then my other concern is bingo, where my senior citizens play bingo for 10% drag, and that's what they love most. That money goes to their field trips, their Mirindas in the afternoon. Any kind of social events that they want to attend, they have the money and the supplies to run the centre. We use that because we're not getting anything from the government. So now they want to stop all gambling, even the non-profit and the sports. I don't see why they are going to include that. They could have made an exemption for it.
JAMIE TAHANA: Have you had any interest from senators about this exclusion?
Yes. I talked to some senators and they said they're going to bring that back because they're concerned, too, about our culture, like the cockfight. And, of course, at the senior citizen centre, that's all our elderlies do is come around and eat their lunch here and play the game of bingo - dollar a card. And that's going to jeopardise their sport. They said, 'Oh, they can play without having any money involved'. So how are we going to buy our bingo cards?
JT: Is there any other sources of funding?
DA: That's the only way because we're not getting any source of funding from the government.
JT: Should there be?
DA: Definitely. But we're really, financially... We're in a bad economy right now. We're getting downsized. Your promotions are being held back, your pay raises are being held back, because we're struggling. Now they're going to try and kill the only source I can get.
JT: And cockfighting, is there a form of cockfighting network that is against this? Has there been any meeting among trainers?
DA: Well, they said that we could still have cockfighting, and it sounds like we're going to fight the birds without betting. That doesn't make sense. We pay for them to eat. We buy chicken feed and all that. We buy our birds from off-island. It's just a sport, but we bet to recover our loss. We could stop the cockfighting, that's not a problem. But the thing is, that's our culture, and that's where us mayors, especially, get some funding for allowing the cockfight to happen in our village.
JT: How much of the culture is cockfighting?
DA: A lot. I predict more than half of these islands are cockfighters. Like I said, it's way back in the pre-war that we had cockfights in Guam.
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