CCC crisis continues as it loses another commissioner

The CCC has said it may have to cease operations by April 2022.
The CCC has said it may have to cease operations by April 2022.

Diego M. Songao has stepped down as a member of the Commonwealth Casino Commission due to health reasons.

Northern Mariana Islands.- Diego M. Songao, a member of the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) has resigned as a commissioner, due to health reasons.

Songao started working as a CCC commissioner on May 1, 2018. His term was due to end on April 30, 2024. During his period as a member of the CCC board, he was responsible for oversight on the island of Rota.

Despite Songao’s resignation, Andrew Yeom, the CCC’s executive director, has said the regulator will still be able to perform its duties because the remaining three committee members still have quorum.

However, the news deepens the CCC’s crisis. It has warned that it will have to cease operations by April 2022 if it doesn’t get new funding. Yeom has said that if the government doesn’t approve the allocation of the available US$1m in casino licence fees collected from IPI in 2019, the regulator will have to shut down.

In June, the regulator announced 20 layoffs without cause to reduce operation costs. Yeom said this represented a 60 per cent workforce reduction for CCC as some staff had already voluntarily resigned. He says the commission currently has 15 workers, down from 50 in 2019.

Yeom on online gambling

Yeom has shared his views on online gambling to the House Gaming Committee at the invitation of Edwin Propst, committee chairman. He said that allowing online gambling could bring up to 2.1m online users annually.

Yeom had predicted gaming revenue from 2025 onwards could be approximately US$450m. However, Propst said he wants to be cautious regarding the possible costs of regulating online gambling.

He said: “We were promised a US$7bn industry by Imperial Pacific International, and fast-forward to today, the casino commission is in need of US$1m to continue to operate.”

Rep. Celina Babauta said she doubted if the figures provided by Yeom were realistic, to which Yeom answered: “I can’t guarantee these numbers either. These are potential numbers. It could be met or it could be wrong.

“I cannot…guarantee these numbers. These are a kind of visualization of what the potential revenue could be…. Don’t think that this is how it’s going to be or how it will be exactly.”

Yeom agreed with the committee that an internet gambling operator should be brought in to share its views.

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CCC Commonwealth Casino Commission GAMBLING REGULATION