CNMI sets out concerns about online gaming approval

The Northern Mariana Islands' senate passed the online gaming bill last year.
The Northern Mariana Islands' senate passed the online gaming bill last year.

Representative Tina Sablan has raised concerns that the possible approval of online gaming could lead to money laundering.

Northern Mariana Islands.- Representative Tina Sablan has raised concerns about the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ proposed Internet Gaming Act 2021.

Sablan opposed a request for House Bill 22-47 to be pulled out from the Gaming Committee so the full House of Representatives could act on it.

According to Saipan Tribune newspaper, she argued that internet gaming could lead to an increase in money laundering.

Sablan also noted that the bill has been requested by Imperial Pacific International (IPI), which is currently facing the indefinite suspension of its gaming licence. She argued that it would only benefit the casino operator.

She said: “There are serious concerns that are raised by this internet gaming bill that were concerns in the last legislature. Those issues have not gone away and they are the subject of investigation right now.”

However, former vice-speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero has argued online gaming has no greater risk and could help generate revenue for the CNMI following the closure of the casino industry for many months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Guerrero said: “This is another form [of gaming] that we should tap because there’s a lot of investors willing to open [internet] gaming, but [in the] absence of a piece of legislation, no investors would want to invest here in the CNMI. This is something that we should look at thoroughly.”

He denied the bill was an IPI initiative, saying it was the product of bill’s own author.

In April, the Commonwealth Casino Commission ordered the suspension of Imperial Pacific International’s gaming licence and ordered the casino operator to pay a penalty plus regulatory fees.

It ordered IPI to pay a penalty of US$6.6m, an annual casino exclusive licence fee of US$15.5m and annual casino regulatory fees of US$3.1m. The company has appealed against the decision.

According to Saipan Tribune newspaper, assistant attorney general Michael Ernest, counsel for CCC executive director Andrew Yeom, reported a technical error in the CCC board’s order against IPI. Ernest has asked the board to reconsider the final order in order to correct the error.

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