NATIVE MARIANAS GROUP WANT CASINO GAMBLING

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 30) - An initiative to allow
casino gaming on Saipan to help revitalize the economy has been proposed by the
Saipan Mayor's Office and the CNMI Indigenous Entrepreneurs Inc., a group of
local citizens that aims to strengthen business opportunities for local people.

A key feature of the plan is to restrict the ownership and
control of the casino solely to people of Northern Marianas descent, as defined
by the CNMI Constitution. This restriction is similar to the legal precedent set
by Native Americans who control their own local casino industry in the U.S.
mainland.

Any person of Northern Marianas descent, who is 18 years old or
older, may own up to 5 percent of common shares of the proposed Northern
Marianas Descent Investment Corp., which will be established as the only casino
license holder on Saipan.

Under the proposed Act, a five-member Saipan casino commission
will be appointed by the Saipan Mayor and confirmed by the Saipan and Northern
Islands Delegation.

They would also establish a Saipan Municipal Treasury within the
Office of the Mayor, where all casino taxes and fees would be deposited for
disbursement by appropriations as local revenue by the Saipan and Northern
Islands Legislative Delegation. Under the proposed law, the Mayor of Saipan
would submit an annual budget to the delegation for consideration. The Saipan
delegation would have up to 90 days to adopt or amend the budget.

The commission will be authorized to initiate casino operation
agreements with any hotel on Saipan with at least 200 rooms. At least 75 percent
of all casino employees must be local U.S. citizens, and the U.S. minimum wage
will apply. Local residents will be trained in supervisory and management
positions and placed in these positions once qualified within five years of
business operation. Employee benefit programs, such as health and dental
insurance, sick and vacation leave programs, shall be instituted within the
first 12 months of operation.

The proposed initiative, if approved by voters in the upcoming
November general election, would establish casino gambling on Saipan as a new
industry to help generate revenues and revitalize the Saipan economy.

Casino revenues would be spent for infrastructure development,
collateral equipment, recreation and sport facilities, education and
scholarships, public safety, law enforcement, gamblers anonymous program, youth
and elderly programs, medical referrals, utility subsidies for low income
people, disability programs, NMI Retirement Fund Special Account, social
programs, and low interest home loans for persons of Northern Marianas descent
in the Third Senatorial District.

The CNMI Indigenous Entrepreneurs Inc., chartered by the CNMI
government in 2000, includes many prominent local leaders and citizens
representing all local political parties, the government and private sector. The
group drafted the proposed initiative and presented it to the Office of the
Mayor of Saipan because that office and the people of the Third Senatorial
District would be the main beneficiaries.

Saipan Mayor Juan B. Tudela acknowledged that the issue of
casino gambling on Saipan has been controversial in the past. However, he felt
that because of the continuing economic crisis facing the CNMI government, it is
duty and responsibility to see that the proposal advanced by the CNMI Indigenous
Entrepreneurs should be decided upon by the people of Saipan.

April 30, 2003

Saipan Tribune: www.saipantribune.com 

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