Governor Ralph DLG Torres has said that the CCC’s call for funding is not urgent and said the islands should continue to analyse different options, including e-gaming.
Northern Mariana Islands.- While the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) continues to face economic difficulties, governor Ralph DLG Torres has minimised the issue. He’s said he sees no urgency to hand US$1m in funds to the CCC now.
Instead, he said he was in favour of analysing the possibility of allowing online gaming.
He said: “I know that there’s a proposal for e-gaming. Maybe that’s something that we can look into.”
He added: “We have to see how we can maximize the casino commission’s role, whether it should start monitoring the poker industry and/or some of the amusement activities.”
The governor said the government will communicate with Andrew Yeom, the executive director of the committee, and his board of directors on how the casino industry will move forward in the next six to eight months.
The regulator’s executive director has said that the CCC is down to just 12 employees including himself due to the funding crisis. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the CCC had over 50 employees but in June, the regulator announced 20 layoffs without cause to reduce operational costs.
Yeom had warned that the CCC will have to cease operations by April 2022 if it doesn’t get new funding and has called on the government to approve the allocation of the available US$1m in casino licence fees collected from IPI in 2019.
Yeom’s take on online gaming
Yeom shared his views to the House Gaming Committee at the invitation of Edwin Propst, committee chairman.
Before sharing his views, Yeom clarified that he was only “trying to lay out the facts” and insisted on the need to examine the bill’s “pros and cons.” However, he said that allowing online gambling could bring up to 2.1m online users annually.
A few weeks ago Yeom 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.”
Representative Tina Sablan, who had previously raised concerns about the proposed Internet Gaming Act 2021, asked Yeom which overseas gamblers would be able to place bets online in the CNMI.
According to Mariana’s Variety, Yeom said online gamblers could be located in the islands or not, but gamblers overseas would only be able to place bets from countries where online gambling is legal.