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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 28) – A lawmaker from Rota in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) who lost his senatorial bid in last month’s midterm elections has introduced a bill appropriating US$500,000 to jumpstart their island’s casino industry.

Rep. Crispin M. Ogo, Covenant-Rota and chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said House Bill 15-326 is badly needed to help their island establish a casino industry.

The people of Rota ratified last month a popular initiative legalizing casino industry on their island.

Ogo is proposing to reprogram $500,000 of the proceeds of the government’s earned bond interest previously allocated for Rota’s Route 100 road project to implement the Rota Casino Act of 2007.

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, there is hereby appropriated the sum of $500,000from the funds appropriated by section 2 of Public Law 13-48 to be used as start-up funds for the implementation of the Rota Casino Act of 2007," H.B. 15-326 stated.

The mayor of Rota will be the expenditure authority.

Ogo said the government’s failed negotiations with Japan Airlines to bring direct chartered flights to their island means that the casino industry project must be expedited to entice more tourists to visit Rota.

JAL abandoned the CNMI route in late 2005.

Since then, Rota’s tourist arrivals plunged by more than 50 percent.

In a previous interview, Sen. Paul A. Manglona, R-Rota, said now that the casino initiative has been ratified, a commission must be formed to license casino operators and oversee their operations.

Manglona said investors from Japan, China and Korea have expressed interest in Rota’s casino industry.

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