Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saipan Casion Act - Read It!

(Here is my column from yesterday's Saipan Tribune.)

I have previously written about the public health effects of casinos on a community. I addressed the broad topic of casino gambling. However, the issue before the Saipan voters is not simply “Should casino gambling be permitted on Saipan?” The real question before the voters is about a very specific Act: the Saipan Casino Act. Do you know what is in the Act?

If you are planning on voting on this initiative next week, you should, at the very least, read the Act. You have to know what you are voting for, and the only way to know is to read the Act. The Act is about 30 pages long, and covers a lot of specific details. It’s irresponsible to cast a vote on an issue that you’re not informed about. This is an important issue.

I know of people who are conceptually in favor of casino gambling on Saipan, but when they read the Act, they realize that they do not support the details of the Act, and decide to vote against it. It’s not about “Yes Casino.” The vote is about the details contained in the Act. So take a look at the Act. It is available at the website of the Commonwealth Election Commission, votecnmi.gov.mp. According to the website, copies are also available at the public library. If you can’t get access to a copy, stop by my office and we’ll print a copy for you.

I will quote a few of the paragraphs of the Saipan Casino Act. These are just a few of the sections of the Act. They will give you an idea of the type of detail that is up for vote next week. Read the Act in its entirety, or gather a group of people to read and discuss it. It’s the only way to know what you’ll be voting on.

Here are a few paragraphs:

“Commission. The Mayor [of Saipan] shall within thirty (30) days after the effective date of this Act, appoint seven (7) members of the Commission. At least two members shall be Carolinian Descent. At least four members shall be of Chamorro Descent. At least one member of the seven Commissioners shall be a woman.” (Article II, Section 1a)

“Subpoenas – Oaths. The Commission shall have the power and right to issue subpoenas and to compel the attendance of witnesses at any place within the Municipality of Saipan…” (Article II Section 3)

“Casino License. There shall be one casino license allowed in the Third Senatorial District [Saipan] and its shorelines, seaports and within the territorial waters of the NCMI that surround Saipan and the Islands north of Saipan, which purpose is for the control, operation and management of casino gaming activities.” (Article III, Section 1)

“Grant of Casino License. The Commission, upon this Act becoming law, shall issue the casino license only to the Northern Marianas Descent Investment Corporation (NMDIC). The license shall be perpetual... The incorporators, directors, officers and shareholders of the NMDIC shall be persons of NMD. NMDIC shall issue shares of common stock duly subscribed in Five Hundred Dollar (US$500.00) par value per share and preferred stocks duly subscribed in one dollar ($1.00) par value per share to natural NMD persons only. No natural person of NMD shall own more than one (1) share of common stocks and twenty-five thousand (25,000) of preferred shares.” (Article III, Section 2a)

Public Land. The Department of Public Land (DPL) or any future entity responsible for the administration of public lands in the Commonwealth, upon this Act becoming law and at the request of NMDIC, shall issue, public land to NMDIC. NMDIC shall hold leasehold interest to all public land issue by DPL and pay one dollar ($1.00) per year for the land or lands issued by DPL for as long as NMDIC is in business.” (Article III, Section 8)

“Initial Operating Cost. In the event the Delegation is not able to provide funding for the initial operating cost, the Commission and the Treasurer may incur debt from any government agency or private entity to fund the initial cost of their operation. The debt is not public debt, but shall be repaid.” (Article X, Section 7)

The issue is certainly not, as some have attempted to couch it, “Are you in favor of economic development on Saipan,” nor is it even “Are you in favor of casino gambling on Saipan.” It is, “Are you in favor of the details of the Saipan Casino Act.” Become familiar with the content of the Act. Ask questions. It’s the only way to form a responsible opinion.

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Anemone said...

Good post.