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    Thursday, February 22, 2018-5:54:23P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Casino commission: Not the right time to modify board composition

THE Commonwealth Casino Commission is opposed to a Senate measure that will increase the number of casino commissioners, saying this is not the right time to modify the composition of the board.

Commission chair Juan Sablan, in his written comments submitted to Sen. Justo Quitugua, chairman of the Senate Committee on Gaming, expressed the commission’s opposition to Senate Bill 20-87, which was introduced by Quitugua.

The bill will increase the number of commissioners from five to seven. One of the two new members must be a woman while the other will represent Carolinians.

Right now, the present board consists of three members from Saipan and one each from Rota and Tinian.

Sablan said the bill in its current form fails to authorize and appropriate funding for the additional costs to the commission. He said the current compensation for each commissioner is $65,000 per annum.

The Legislature, he added, will need to identify about $250,000 to fund the new commissioners’ salaries, as well as furniture and fixtures, office space, training and related expenses.

He said the commission currently gets most of its budget funded by the casino regulatory fee fund paid annually by the exclusive casino licensee, Imperial Pacific International.

Sablan said their current membership composition is effective and efficient.

“The casino industry on Saipan is still in its infancy as the construction of the initial gaming facility is still ongoing. Phases 1 and II of the project as outlined in the casino license agreement have yet to break ground. This is not the appropriate time to modify the board composition,” Sablan said.

The intent of the bill is noble, he added, but its implementation will be difficult due to lack of funds to cover the added costs.

Commissioner Justin Manglona of Rota, whose term is expiring, also submitted a comment in his personal capacity and not as a commissioner.

“By April 30, 2020,” he told Quitugua, “the terms of all three commissioners from Saipan will expire and the governor will have the option to appoint new members to reflect the [intent of] Senate Bill 20-87, negating the need for its passage at this time.”

He added, “Perhaps the time is ripe to have a new and clear public policy for appointing members to the board and commissions based on high ethical standards, educational experience, leadership skills and the appropriate background for the job.”

For the casino commission, he said, “there should be a requirement that commissioners have experience in business management and possess high ethical character due to the nature of the job. Once confirmed, new commissioners must receive training in casino operations since this is a new industry on Saipan.”