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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (April 6, 1998 - Marshall Islands Journal)---After days of loud and often acrimonious debate in the Nitijela (parliament) and political arm twisting by anti-gambling forces in the community, the Nitijela voted resoundingly at the end of March to repeal the law that allowed gambling in the Marshall Islands.

In a vote surprising many by its strength of opposition, 18 voted for the bill to repeal gambling, while the pro-gambling faction was able to muster just seven votes against. Despite the strong pro-gambling position advanced by President Kabua during the days preceding the vote, the community-backed anti-gamblers won in a vote that was much easier than it had originally appeared.

Preceding the vote was a debate over who could actually vote. In the end, President Kabua, Foreign Minister Phillip Muller and Senator Tony deBrum acknowledged a conflict of interest because of their gambling interests and withdrew from voting.

But even if their votes had counted, the outcome still wouldn't have been close as the Cabinet split over the gambling issue, with more members supporting the repeal than backing President Kabua's position.

Among the surprises were Ratak Minister Litokwa Tomeing and R&D Minister Jiba Kabua casting "yes" votes against gambling. Internal Affairs Minister Brenson Wase and Justice Minister Lomes McKay abstained, which counted as "yes" votes.

The following day, by a close margin of 12-11, the Nitijela approved a companion bill that bans all gambling in the republic except for raffles and other fundraising by non-profit organizations.

MARSHALL ISLANDS JOURNAL Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: Fax: 692-625-3136 Tel. 692-625-8143 Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year: US $87.00; International $227.00 (air mail)

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