Casino commission submits 71-cent ‘budget request’

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THE Commonwealth Casino Commission is asking the Legislature to appropriate 71 cents from the general fund so that the commission will be among the government’s business units in the fiscal year 2021 budget spreadsheet.

The commission’s original request was $1, but this was reduced to 71 cents following the across-the-board budget cuts in light of the steep drop in tourist arrivals caused by the global Covid-19 outbreak.

The actual amount that the casino commission needs for its operations, personnel and other related costs is $3.2 million, which will come from the Commonwealth Casino Commission Regulatory Fund.

Public Law 19-24 mandates that the Finance secretary establish and maintain a regulatory fund to be kept separate and apart from the general funds of the Commonwealth government.

All casino regulatory and licensing funds collected from casino investor Imperial Pacific International are transferred to the regulatory fund for appropriations.

In their joint letter to Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao and Senate President Victor Hocog, Casino Commission Chairman Juan Sablan and Executive Director Edward C. Deleon Guerrero said their budget submission represents the regulatory funds as authorized by P.L. 19-24.

“As you know, the commission is a relatively new government entity responsible for the promulgation of the rules and regulations for the Saipan casino industry and to license, regulate and enforce those regulations,” the casino commission officials said.

“The casino industry offers the CNMI a great opportunity to generate new sources of revenue that will enable us to alleviate our financial obligations. To date, the casino licensee has paid $164.8 million in gross gaming revenue taxes, spent over $1 billion in the purchase of goods and services from various vendors, and over $105.5 million in payments for the exclusive license fees and casino regulatory fees. However, this new industry cannot succeed nor operate without the presence of the Commonwealth Casino Commission, the enforcement and regulatory entity for the Saipan gaming industry.”

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