Twin casino bills sail through Northern Marianas committee

A Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) legislative committee has approved twin bills that will clarify the powers of the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) and the penalties for casino industry-related violations.

Twin casino bills sail through Northern Marianas committeeMarianas Variety reported that the House Committee on Gaming headed by Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero endorsed House Bill 20-82, which he introduced, and 20-50, which was proposed by Rep. Edwin Propst.

Guerero’s proposed measure seeks to clarify the CCC’s powers and amend the current law that allows casino commissioners to serve two terms instead of the current one six-year term.

Prospst’s bill aims to increase the penalties imposed on casino law violators. The scope of the law includes the organization, the employee of the casino as an individual, and casinos patrons.

He noted that the current maximum penalty of $50,000 imposed on violators is still too low.

“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.

If Prospst’s measure is enacted, the CNMI penalty will be three times higher than what is imposed in any other U.S. jurisdiction.

Guerero pointed out that the penalty could still change depending on the vote of the majority once it reaches the floor of the House of Representatives.

“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,” 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.”