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Last updateThu, 21 Nov 2019 12am

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    Wednesday, November 20, 2019-3:36:13A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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House to act on bill that would amend casino law

THE House of Representative is ready to act on a measure that proposes to amend the CNMI casino law and “clarify the powers” of the Commonwealth Casino Commission.

House Bill 21-11, which was endorsed for passage by the House Committee on Gaming, would, among other things, criminalize certain acts related to gaming and allow the casino commission to investigate violations of the casino and gaming-related laws on Saipan.

Authored by Vice Speaker Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero, H.B. 21-11 as originally drafted also proposed to exempt from the Open Government Act certain information pertaining to the lone casino operator’s finances.

But the exemption and other provisions were removed by the House Gaming Committee after a series of meetings.

In its report, the committee stated: “Many citizens of the CNMI are… concerned with the provisions of the bill that exempt the casino commission from the Administrative Procedure Act and the Open Government Act. These apprehensions are justified, as government operates best when open and transparent.”

The draft of H.B. 21-11 approved by the committee would require the commission to produce documents and information upon the request of the attorney general, the public auditor, the law enforcement agency of the U.S. government, or with the approval of the AG, to a duly authorized government agency.

“Due to the controversial nature of the casino industry, [the] committee felt that with these provisions in place, transparency adds clarity and accountability to the system, and provides a much-needed check and balance that if left unchecked, is prone to corruption,” the committee report stated.

In an interview, Rep. Ralph Yumul, the chairman of the House Gaming Committee, said the version of H.B. 21-11 that they approved is a bipartisan measure that addresses the concerns of the House minority bloc.