Saipan business group says casino may do more harm than good
A new law giving the green light to Saipan's first casino has the Chamber of Commerce worried about limited tax gains and growing gambling problems.
The head of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce in CNMI says a law allowing the construction of the island's first casino is not in the best interests of local people.
Alex Sablan told Jenny Meyer he is worried about the haste of the legislation, the limited tax gains and the social consequences of gambling on the community.
ALEX SABLAN: It's to be seen what the impacts are going to be of casino gaming. There's positives to it in the sense that there will be funding issues and these are being taken care of. But currently as we speak, we do not have a social programme set up in the Commonwealth addressing even the simplest of forms of gambling, which is poker machines. We're hopeful that the government steps up when we do get the money to address these problems. We don't look negatively towards casino gaming. It's another great attraction that's going to provide for tourists that come from all of our source markets; Russia, China, Korea, even Japan.
But again the manner in which this bill was put forward, as quickly as it was. And right now there's numerous amendments, there's about 20 new amendments that are being added to this bill because it was such a rushed job and a lot of flaws were found within the legislation. Again we believe that it could have been a good bill put together. One that would have benefited the entire populous, but we just feel that this bill does not do so.
JENNY MEYER: Do you think once the amendments are through that in fact it will be okay and there will be enough of a safety net there to cover those issues?
AS: I've seen the amendments per se, and I still believe that we could make a lot more money off of the exclusive license. The membership, our board of directors do not believe that they are taxing the exclusive operator, near enough to cover a lot of the issues that are pending within the Commonwealth. And I believe at the end of the day the social programmes I speak of, are going to be; some of those issues are not going to be taken care of.
JM: So do you think in fact the local community may just fall through the cracks there?
AS: Yes I believe they could fall through the cracks and again it's evident today that they are. Because of the lack of programmes. And again I don't believe this money will be sufficient to handle the vast majority of problems that we've got here. Had we had a better taxing programme with this casino exclusive license I think it might have well dealt with a lot of the problems. But taxes of $US15 million per year for this license, that's not near enough. That doesn't even cover the minimum requirement for the retirement fund that was recently settled.
Alex Sablan says it is not clear who the casino investors are.
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