Governor Ralph DLG Torres has said he will support online gaming in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Northern Mariana Islands.- While debates continue on the proposed Internet Gaming Act 2021, the governor of the Northern Mariana Islands has spoken in favour of allowing online gaming.
During a press conference, Torres said the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) needs additional income besides the funding it’s received through federal programs and that online gambling could be a solution.
According to Saipan tribune, he said: “I hope we can have this industry in the next year or so. This will help all of us-the economy, the recruitment of new employees, new opportunities”.
The governor said he hoped the move would have a knock-on effect, attracting more companies to start other businesses in the CNMI.
Andrew Yeom, Commonwealth Casino Commission executive director, had talked up the possibility of online gambling.
He said: “Internet gaming can be a great thing for the Commonwealth if done correctly. I can assure you there are many ways to go about it. But I am not the one to tell how the operation is set up because I am not here to give that information…. I am here as a regulator.”
According to Yeom, allowing online gambling could generate nearly US$28.1m in gross gaming revenue in 2022. The figure could increase to US$112.56m in 2023 and US$25263m in 2024.
Pointing out the numbers were just a prediction, he said an online gambling site located in CNMI may attract up to 2.1 million online users a year and that total game revenue from 2025 onwards would be approximately US$450m.
However, Andrew Klebanow, principal of C3 Gaming Group, said: “The local population is well-served by some slot halls and video poker parlours. Given the relatively small residential population, it is doubtful that an online operation would generate much revenue.”
Representative Tina Sablan has also raised concerns about the proposed Internet Gaming Act 2021, arguing that internet gaming could lead to an increase in money laundering.
Another factor is internet connectivity on the island. It has improved in recent years but continues to suffer due to frequent typhoons, which have caused significant infrastructural damage. Due to the islands’ location, data is also more expensive than in other jurisdictions.
Operators want changes to N. Mariana islands e-gaming licence fee
Mariana Entertainment and MP Holdings have asked the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation to amend a new law that doubles the islands’ e-gaming licence fee.
The law signed by Gov Ralph DLG Torres imposes an additional fee of 15 per cent on all electronic gaming devices on Saipan, including machines located within e-gaming facilities or hotels.
MP Holdings says it has had to close its Club 88 venue in Garapan, laying off 30 workers as a result.
According to Mariana’s Variety, Gus Noble, MP Holdings consultant, warned that if the fee is not amended, the remaining video game halls on Saipan will also close and another 40 local workers will lose their jobs.
Bart Jackson, MP Holdings and Mariana Entertainment general manager, said: “In an effort to find a compromise solution to the harsh effects of the newly doubled licence fees on e-gaming machines, I have asked the Saipan delegation to lower the licence fee.
“My opinion is that the new licence fee, without a change, is harsh and unreasonable.”
He proposed a compromise of a $500 increase on the per-machine licence fee.