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By Liberty Dones

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Mar. 31) - Former governor Froilan Tenorio is pushing for the legalization of casinos on Saipan and Rota, citing its importance to boost the local economy.

In an interview with reporters Monday, Tenorio said he plans to bring up the issue with the CNMI Legislature, more likely the Senate.

He said he hopes the bill would be introduced by a Senate member from Rota or Saipan.

The Rota delegation had pushed but failed for casino operations on the island at least three times.

"In my opinion this [casino] will sustain the economy because it attracts the tourists. Poker does not attract the tourists but the locals. Casino is for the tourists," Tenorio said.

He said he would meet with the leaders of the Catholic Church, which is expected to be among those who would strongly oppose the project, to explain issues.

He said Tinian, which is host to the Tinian Dynasty Casino, has no reasons to worry about gambling legalization on Saipan and Rota. "Tinian would be even better," he said.

Tenorio said the proposed measure would carry a provision that states that Saipan would compensate Tinian for any loss of revenue.

Tenorio said several Japanese investors support the proposed project.

The former governor disclosed the casino project when he attended the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board meeting Monday wherein he pushed for the approval of a water desalination project on Saipan.

"Casino operations would need water three times as much. The desalination project is very crucial to this operation," he said.

The 13th Senate had introduced a bill seeking to authorize casino operations in the Third Senatorial District but it did not pass.

Senate Local Bill 13-7, or the proposed Saipan Casino Act of 2002, would primarily create a Saipan Casino Commission within the Office of the Mayor, which would regulate and control casino operations on Saipan; and a Northern Mariana Islands Descent Investment Inc., a for-profit corporation that would establish the casino itself.

The proposed Act would grant the NMIDII one license to operate a casino for a maximum of 40 years.

March 31, 2004

Saipan Tribune


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