Thursday, September 20, 2007

138. Why You Should Vote NO on the Saipan Casino Act.

I'll skip the arguments against casinos in general--the invitation to organized crime, the effect on morality and the family, the cost in social and safety terms, etc. Even if you think casinos are the quick fix that Saipan needs for its economy, you should vote NO on this Saipan Casino Act.

The Act's design does not contribute to its goal.

1. The goal is to attract tourists and boost the economy. The act creates a monopoly for casino operation. There will be no competition, no other investment companies raising the bar for better, cleaner, prettier casinos. One investment company will get the one and only license available to operate casinos in Saipan. In the states, Indian casinos get a monopoly on their reservations, but ONLY IF the state allows investment by anyone in casinos that operate in the state. There's no state-wide monopoly. (Indian Regulatory Gaming Act.) Competition fosters better services. If the purpose is to attract tourists, we would need the best services, the ones created by competition.

The act gives more in CNMI-funded benefits than it gets.

2. The money to be generated by fees and permits ($550,000 per annum) will be needed for the cost of the new regulatory commission created. (per annum--$336,000 for 7 commissioners; approx. $100,000 for the executive director and treasurer; approx. $100,000 for support staff, legal and computer/technical services; approx. $14,000 for power, water, telephone, internet, supplies like paper, pens, printer ink cartridges; and nothing for furniture and capital assets, space rental & maintenance, insurance, alarm systems, etc.).

3. The money to be generated by the gross revenue tax is less than the value of the public land lease given. The act says that MPLA has to lease public land to the casino for $1.00 per year. In the past, MPLA and its predecessors set rents for public lands at a percentage of gross revenue, and set those rents at a much higher rate than 1%. So the gross revenue tax is really just a cheap rent for the public land.

4. There's really nothing more for the public that the act generates, except fines and penalties.

5. The salaries/money for the commissioners, executive director, treasurer, and staff comes from the casino that they regulate. And under the act, these officials are allowed to have shares in the casino. How independent will such a regulatory commission be? How many fines and penalties are likely to generated?


The Saipan Casino Act violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the CNMI's equal protection clause, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.

6. The Investment Corporation must be owned solely by persons of Northern Marianas Descent (NMDs), meaning only NMDs can hold shares in the company, and act as its officers and directors. The Commissioners must be NMDs--with a guaranteed majority of Chamorros on the Commission. This discriminates against U.S. citizens and foreign investors who are not NMDs. It even discriminates against Carolinians among the NMDs. This is unconstitutional.

7. The executive director and treasurer must be NMDs. The Casino must give a hiring preference to NMDs (not resident workers, just resident NMDs). The Casino must give a management/training preference to NMDs. All of this discriminates in employment based on ethnicity and violates both U.S. and CNMI constitutions and the EEO act.

8. The money generated by the act, if there is any in excess of the costs, shall be subject to appropriation by the CNMI Saipan Delegation of the legislature, but there are restrictions on the appropriation: if the money is put toward social programs, the programs can only benefit NMDs. Scholarship money--only for NMDs. Elderly benefits--only for NMDs. Utility assistance--only for NMDs. This discriminates based on ethnicity and violates both the U.S. and CNMI Constitutions.

Why do we want a law that excludes lawful citizens and discriminates against them? When our Chamorro and Carolinian citizens go to the states, we don't want them to be discriminated against--we'll count on that equal protection guarantee for fair treatment. Why should it be different here? Why do we think a big, fat special interest law is the ticket to our improvement?

We don't.


Even if you think casinos are the wave of the future for Saipan, the initiative on the November 2007 ballot will only cause problems. Vote No on the Saipan Casino Act.

25 comments:

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

With a few edits, I'd sign my name to that.

Saipan Writer said...

Angelo,

Feel free to take it, edit it, whatever. It's yours (and anybody else who wants it.) Perhaps a joint letter to the newspapers?

Anonymous said...

thanks for the analysis..have it posted at:

http://www.saipancasinoact.com

or

http://blog.saipancasinoact.com

Saipan Writer said...

Thanks, anon. The blog you cite is a wonderful resource of blog entries from a variety of sources, all opposed to casinos in some form or another.

The site deserves more promotion.

Saipan Writer said...

One other bit of information I've learned since I wrote my post: The IGRA expressly says that states negotiate contracts/compacts with Indian tribes for casinos, but may only do so if they otherwise allow casinos/class III gambling by their laws.

But apparently some states have ignored that provision of the IGRA, and when challenged about it, the courts have held that individuals do not have a private right of action to enforce IGRA--so it seems the states have carte blanche to violate the law (?). And in fact, there may be some places where Indian casinos are monopolies.

Saipan Writer said...

Oh yeah--but the Indians haven't improved their lives from the "profits."

The statistics about Indian poverty, education drop-out, alcoholism and suicide are staggering. And it doesn't appear that casinos have been the boon for the majority of Indians who need help the most.

Jeff said...

How does Article XII not violate the Fourteenth Amendment? I mean that is a race based law, like this one wants to be. I've always been curious about this.

Jeff said...

And if you're right on the 14th Amendment, and common sense (sorry Ambrose) would say you are, won't it get struck down anyway as soon as someone challenges it, and knowing that, why would they set it up that way -- bad lawyers, no lawyers or just bad planning on their part?

Anonymous said...

I was extremely excited driving around the island today and seeing all the vote "no" to the Saipan Casino Act signs around..

Pragmatic Plato said...

May I get a link to my new blog?

Saipan Writer said...

Jeff,

1. Article IX--wow. That would take a lot to explain fully.

But basically, the idea is that the Northern Marianas was fully sovereign and negotiating with the US as a sovereign nation. If the NMI didn't want something, US law didn't apply, so the NMI could do what it wanted. So the NMI could adopt Article IX.

The next question became whether the US could, too. I think the analysis is something like this: The US could make a treaty that didn't extend all of the 14th amendment to a foreign country. I think, also, the US could act under its territorial clause and set up something in a territory without complying with the 14th amendment.

And the 9th circuit has upheld the covenant provision, article IX, as lawful, despite its obvious failure to comply with the 14th amendment.

So we are living with article IX.

There has been some serious erosion of its effect, though. The most notable, to me, is a Superior court case that says claims under article IX are limited to 6 years, so that if a non-NMD purchases an interest in land, he owns the land free and clear if no one sues him under article IX for 6 years.

Not sure if the CNMI Supreme Court has ruled on that or would agree. (Possibly. I'm not an article IX expert by any stretch of the imagination.)


2. The casino initiative: I'm not sure why the proposal is so flawed. I'm guessing that there's a lack of legal advice. It could also be a heavy reliance on the Indian gaming laws of the US, and the assumption that CNMI indigenous can be treated the same. I still need to do more research on that question.

lil_hammerhead said...

Very informative. I'm actually a pro-casino person, but I'm very much against this proposal for a variety of reasons. The first is that it will not benefit the entire population as it should, the second being, the CNMI already has one casino and one more on the way. Tinian was the only island who were willing through a vote to accept casinos, Saipan and Rota voted no. We should not now, having left the casino industry to Tinian, undermine their efforts (as poor as these efforts have been). We should support Tinian's efforts and work to improve their ability to attract and license quality casino operators. We shouldn't ensure that we kill the Dynasty and the casino under development for a casino on Saipan.

lil_hammerhead said...

Sorry, one more point, I would disagree that casinos haven't helped indian communities. I am part native american myself. Excessively high rates of alcoholism and suicide have been part of the native american community for many decades. Additionally, it was incredibly difficult to make a living. Casinos on a number of reservations have lent considerably to their respective reservation communities by providing jobs, improved schools, improved medical care, etc.

I think to say that casinos haven't improved those communities is a wholly unfair statement.

Saipan Writer said...

That's article XII (twelve) not article IX (nine). Sheesh.

Saipan Writer said...

As to the effect of Indian casinos on the Indians that have opted to have them--I based the statement that casinos didn't seem all that helpful on the article and statistics on-line at the Saipan casino act (link posted above in the comments).

My opinion really should be stated more as a question than a verified statement of facts--just passing on what others have said, and what they said seemed to me effective. accurate, but I'm not sure. It appears that Native American tribes in the US seem to be struggling with staggering problems, with or without casinos.

And as to whether Chamorros and Carolinians can be deemed Native Americans under the IGRA--I think not. There's a federal law that says for purposes of IGRA (and many other programs), Interior uses a list of recognized tribes. The most updated list I could find was from 2005: Hope this link works.

rev said...

you should send this to the paper. you're article alone is sufficient and credible enough.

Saipan Writer said...

Thanks, rev. I've been thinking about it. (Would like to know what Angelo thinks should be edited.)

lil_hammerhead said...

The Federal Government has classified Chamorros and NMI Carolinians as "native americans". As such we are eligible and do receive programs and grants from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA).

Saipan Writer said...

Where's that classification? I can't find it. And I'm wondering if it applies to the gaming laws as well.

Saipan Writer said...

Ah. Based on a quick check--Administration for Native Americans expressly covers indigenous populations in Hawaii, Guam NMI, American Samoa, etc., in addition to American Indians and tribes of Alaska. Doesn't mean Chamorros and Carolinians are Indians under the BIA and covered by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Anonymous said...

Time had a great story some time ago on Indian Casinos (Indian Casinos: Wheel of Misfortune) you can find it at:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101021216-397526,00.html

Saipan Writer said...

In an odd twist of fate, I am now being spammed like mad on my personal e-mail for casinos and other gambling operations. Red or black?

Anonymous said...

I simply love Online casino, I play every day and I keep coming back for more.
I am not a problem gambler because I earn enough money to be able to support
myself and continue my online gambling time. I truly enjoy the relaxation time I
get and the ease with which can use and access online casino's. I hate the
stigma that is associated with gambling online as I view it as a release, an
escape and real "me" time. If it were to become a problem then I have no doubt
that I could and would simply cut online casino from my daily vocabulary. As it
stands though, gambling is simply something I enjoy and the internet and online
play are just a good way to access casino's. Playing against the house means I
never have to worry or feel about actually taking money from someone else as it
is only the online casino that would be paying me off for my wins. Talking about
wins, I have had some great wins in my online gambling career – my biggest so
far is $5000 on roulette, on one spin. I am fit, happy, healthy and I love life
and the online casino is just part of my every day existence and escape.

Saipan Writer said...

Last anon: You're a riot!

Real "me" time to gamble online? I enjoy playing cards, but I would disagree with your assessment about what constitutes "me" time.

Confident that you would simply quit if it became a problem? It sounds as if you are in denial already, minimizing the effect your gambling is having on your life, and clueless (intentionally or not) about addiction. Gambling is addictive--people can't just stop without real help.

Playing against the house means you're free from guilt about others losing their livelihoods? Where do you think the house gets its money? From all those losers.

You say you are fit, happy and healthy. I'd say you are not any of those--and most of all not mentally and emotionally healthy or you wouldn't need to justify your gambling habit with an "anonymous" comment.

Gambling ruins lives. It's addictive. People lose not only their money, but all the time they've wasted gambling.

Better to go for a walk or hike the mountains, go rowing or play a game of tennis--get some connection to the outside physical world and all creation. Read more books, listen to music. Socialize with friends and family. In other words, live a real life, not some pseudo-virtual gambler's addiction that can only leave you wanting more--a bigger gamble, better cards, a higher jackpot, and can never lead to fulfillment.

Sabine said...

Well written article.