AMERICAN SAMOA LAWMAKER BELIEVES ALL POKER MACHINES ARE ILLEGAL

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO--"Whether there are 181 or 373 poker machines in American Samoa, they are all illegal," declared Rep. Muavaefaatasi Ae Ae, Jr. following public release of a report prepared by Commissioner of Public Safety Te'o J. Fuavai.

The report's release follows enforcement activities by the Poker Machine Task Force. Its members checked and verified the legality of each poker machine in the Territory, to see if the gambling devices met the 1989 mandate which allows a certain number of machines into American Samoa.

Additionally, the Task Force checked those operating without a license, in which case a citation was issued and the poker machines were to be confiscated.

Of the 259 licensed poker machines that qualified under the 1989 mandate, the Task Force found that only 181 poker machines could be legally verified, while the other 78 were questionable.

"All these poker machines are questionable! They are all illegal under the 1989 law. It's been 10 years since the law went into effect and the life span of each machine is between two to three years, which means none of the 1989 machines currently operating are legal," Rep. Muavaefaatasi, who supports banning poker machines, added.

He also said yesterday that the court should re-examine the 1989 mandate. He said, "This would eliminate all the machines because all these machines have been repaired, which is not part of the 1989 law."

That statement is being challenged by one poker machine owner, who pointed out that the 1989 law does not say that the poker machines cannot be repaired.

"The law stipulates that no parts are to be imported under the 1989 mandate. And if parts are not imported, then the machines cannot be repaired," was Rep. Muavaefaatasi's statement on this issue.

He also said that the report prepared by the Commission that was used during a Task Force meeting on Wednesday to confirm the legality of the 181 machines "should be thrown in the trash."

"Don't insult the intelligence of the public and this faipule," said Rep. Muavaefaatasi, and adding in Samoan: "E le valea fo'i nei fanau."

Sources told Samoa News last night that the 78 poker machines that are being questioned and need documentation were supposed to be seized yesterday.

"The Task Force that met on Wednesday did not want the public, especially the owners of the 78 poker machines, to know the machines were to be confiscated 24 hours after the meeting," said a source who asked not to be identified in fear of being fired for speaking to the media.

The source said that instructions were issued during the meeting that "no one is to release any information about the meeting to the media. But that is not fair to the public. The public has the right to know what is going on with these poker machines."

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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