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Last updateFri, 24 Nov 2017 12am

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    Thursday, November 23, 2017-12:40:10A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

House panel OK’s two casino measures

THE House Committee on Gaming has adopted two casino measures: one proposes to increase the fine for each casino-industry-related violation while the other will clarify the powers of the Commonwealth Casino Commission.

The committee headed by Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero on Tuesday voted to endorse the passage of House Bills 20-50 and 20-82 as amended.

H.B. 20-50 was introduced by Rep. Edwin Propst while H.B. 20-82 was introduced by Deleon Guerrero.

For violating casino law, a penalty can be imposed on the casino as an organization, on an employee of the casino as an individual, and/or on a patron of the casino. Essentially, anybody who violates the casino law can be penalized.

Under the current law, the maximum penalty is $50,000, but Propst believes the amount is inadequate.

“While a fine of that magnitude could be devastating in other industries, such a fine is a pittance when one considers that the casino regularly takes…bets of over 10 times that amount. In short, a $50,000 fine could represent less than the revenue the casino wins on one single bet. As such, that amount is in no way sufficient to serve as a deterrent to improper conduct,” Propst’s bill stated.

In an interview, Deleon Guerrero said if the bill becomes law, the CNMI penalty would be three times higher than what is imposed in any other U.S. jurisdiction.

“We changed the amount from $5 million to $800,000. The current law is $50,000 but that $50,000 is not cumulative. We propose to make it $800,000. It doesn’t mean that it’s only $800,000 — there are smaller fines for lesser offenses, but for severe offenses it will be $800,000 per violation,” Deleon Guerrero added.

“If this bill becomes law, it should act as a deterrent, but the biggest deterrent would still be suspension or revocation of the license.”

Deleon Guerrero said before acting on the bill, the committee “went through the process not only of soliciting comments, but also of asking guidance and comparing the rates from other jurisdictions.”

Deleon Guerrero said once the bill reaches the floor of the House of Representatives, the penalty amount could still be changed.

H.B. 20-82 will clarify the powers of the casino commission. Among the amendments proposed by the committee is the removal of a provision that would allow casino commissioners to serve two terms instead of the current one six-year term.