Online gambling in N. Mariana Islands: operators question feasibility

The Northern Mariana Islands is exploring online casino options.
The Northern Mariana Islands is exploring online casino options.

The Northern Mariana Islands’ proposed Internet Gaming Act 2021 continues to raise questions.

Northern Mariana Islands.- Questions continue to be raised over potential online gaming in the Northern Mariana Islands as proposed by House Bill 22-47. Operators have pointed out that an online gambling market based out of Saipan is likely to be severely limited.

As the CNMI is a US protectorate governed by federal law, the island would not be able to take bets from US states. It would also be forbidden from accepting bets from countries where online gambling is illegal.

Potential online gaming operators note that this would leave the local market as the only potential market online gambling, and that is characterised by low levels of disposable income.

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.”

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.”

In June, Yeom warned that the CCC was running out of money and that the $2m it received from the CNMI government wasn’t enough due to the indefinite suspension of Imperial Pacific International‘s licence. The casino regulator has announced 20 layoffs without cause due to the crisis.

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.

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