One last --easy-- post on the Saipan Casino Act initiative.
EDIT: I haven't found the Saipan Casino Initiative on-line and can't link to it. But if you want a copy, let me know. I'm willing to make a few copies and pass them along.
ON REGULATING CASINOS
At the debate, I complained that there was nothing in the bill that provided for INDEPENDENT regulators. Paduna said I was wrong (well, he SHOUTED that I was wrong, wrong, wrong). See if you can find any of these things:
1. a requirement that the commissioners NOT have any interest in the license-holder, casino operators or other gambling/casino interests.
2. a requirement that the commissioners NOT come directly from employment at the casinos.
3. a requirement that the commissioners NOT be able to go directly from their job as commissioners into the casino industry.
4. a requirement that the commissioners NOT have close family members with an interest in the license-holder, casino operators or other gambling/casino intersts.
5. a requirement that the commissioners NOT have close family members working in the
You won't. The SCA would invite the casino industry into Saipan WITHOUT INDEPENDENT REGULATION. And without independent regulation, the casino industry will be more likely to be corrupt, have illegal and unethical practices, and fail to pay over the benefits we're supposed to reap.
ON THE SCA'S MONOPOLY
At the debate, the pro side insisted the Saipan Casino Act does not create a monopoly. They did this in two ways--1) saying because all indigenous could buy a share in the license-holder, there was no monopoloy; and 2) saying the indigenous compnay was only a "regulatory" monopoly.
1. See if you can find anyplace in the the SCA that permits a second company of all indigenous people to hold a separate license and operate casinos in competition to the first license-holder's casinos.
2. See if you can find anyplace in the SCA that says the indigenous company that will hold the license will be for regulation only and not for profit.
The SCA will grant THE EXCLUSIVE, and perpetual, PRIVILEGE by law to one and only one investment company for the license to operate casinos in Saipan. The company will be a business operating FOR PROFIT. This is a monopoly.
Monopolies do not have the usual market forces to help keep them in line. So not only will there be no independent regulation of the casino industry in Saipan, there will not even be market forces operating to make sure the casinos stay above-board.
AN END TO THE POKER ARCADES
There seems to be a growing notion that the appearance of casinos in Saipan would end the proliferation and prominence of poker arcades in our community. I'm not really sure how this is supposed to happen. (It was repeated over and over that casinos would be well-lit and our local people wouldn't go in there. I'm not sure the reasoning behind that analysis, either, but it would be inconsistent with the idea that demand for the poker-machines would be diverted to the casinos.) The closure of poker arcades hasn't happened in Tinian.
1. Find someplace in the SCA that changes our poker-machine laws.
AND UNTOLD RICHES FOR ALL
One of the lures of the casino industry is the promise of wealth. But the casino industry does not create wealth--it doesn't take some natural resource and make it into a valuable product. It just packages gambling as fun and redistributes existing wealth. For the casino industry to "generate" income, people have to lose. The entire casino industry is premised on this simple fact. The machines and tables and games are all set up so that there are consistently more losers than winners.
One of the myths of the casino promise is that wealthy people play at the casinos and lose income they can afford to do without. This myth isn't entire false, which is why it is so attractive. There are wealthy people who play games at casinos and lose big money.
Will those wealthy people choose to gamble at casinos on Saipan or Tinian, rather than Macau or Singapore? I mean, really, if you were wealthy, where would you choose? I love Saipan and all of the CNMI, and I love it the way it is. I can't see casinos and neon-light as an improvement. And I can't see us ever getting to the point of being legitimately competitive with Macau and Singapore for those wealthy gamblers.
And then there are the others, not so wealthy gamblers, losing money at casinos that they can't afford. These might be tourists or residents. They might be our soldiers and sailors stationed on Guam. Casino income is a reverse or regressive tax--taking money from those most desperate to try their luck.
And while casino owners and operators usually make profits (with the notable exception of the Tinian Dynasty), people in the community don't necessarily see an improved lifestyle. This is reflected in the increase in bankruptcies in communities with casinos. This is reflected in the fact that Las Vegas has the highest rate of home mortgage foreclosures in the country right now, and a depressed housing market.
Just be sure you realize there's NO GUARANTEE in the Saipan Casino Act.
A BETTER WAY
Proponents of the SCA hype casinos as "the only alternative" that Saipan has to get out of the economic slump. This is a lie. Other communities in the past--going back for centuries--have had times where they faced economic hardship. They didn't have to turn to casinos to recover. We don't either.
And just because other communities have chosen to have casinos is no reason for us to do the same. We aren't lemmings. We have a unique culture and beauty that we can develop.
We should work on building the community, rather than just building the economy. The community encompasses economic aspects, but it looks at the larger picture and works from there. I agree with Tina Sablan that we need honest government and an investment in our people and culture as a basis for promoting our fledgling economy. We should stop looking for the one-trick pony to ride (like the garment industry, EDIT-a certain kind of tourist-EDIT, casinos) and start promoting initiatives by our resident population for small and medium-sized enterprises that will build a solid base for happy community life.