PALAU SENATE OKS REFERENDUM ON CASINOS

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Minority block ‘dismayed

By Jose Rodriguez T. Señase SAIPAN, CNMI Islands (Marianas Variety, Nov. 10, 2010) - The Palau Senate approved recently a measure that would send to voters the issue of whether casinos would be allowed to operate in Palau.

The measure, advanced by Senator Hokkons Baules, states that the Palau Election Commission should conduct a referendum on the entry of casinos within 45 days of the enactment of such Act.

Also, the legislations proposed for the creation of Casino Gaming Commission.

The Senate voted 7-5 on November 4 to send the legislation to President Johnson Toribiong for his approval. President Toribiong has several days to send the bill back to the Senate, sign it into law or allow it to become a law without his signature.

Earlier the House of Delegates also approved a similar measure.

Those voting in the affirmative were Senate President Mlib Tmetuchl, Senators Baules, Regis Akitaya, Paul Ueki, Alfonso Diaz, Joel Toribiong and Regina Mesebeluu.

Voting against the bill were Senators Surangel Whipps, Jr. Kathy Kesolei, Mark Rudimch, Tommy Remengesau, Jr. and Raynold Oilouch.

Senator Whipps said they in the minority were "dismayed by the outcome of the voting.

"We would have liked the Senate to adopt our position on casinos," he stressed.

Whipps said that they in the minority based their opposition on the expected "negative impact" that casinos bring to society.

"There are positive things that casinos bring, but usually, based on the experiences of other countries, the negative impact far outweighs the positive impact they bring, he pointed out. You know that casino dealings usually involve "dirty" money. We do not want Palau to be awash with "dirty" money and the vices that go along with it," the senator added.

He added that they also based their opposition on fears that the outcome of the referendum will not reflect the true will of the people.

"Because no person is standing as a candidate this time, we believe that only a few people will go out and vote in the referendum," he pointed out.

Whipps said they expect a less than 50 percent turnout among the more than 15, 000 registered voters in this island republic. Only majority of the votes cast are required for the issue to be affirmed.

"The tendency is that when you have such a low turnout, vote-buying usually occurs. We don’t want that to happen," he stressed.

Earlier the House of Delegates also passed the same measure on third and final reading.

Because it has been approved by both houses of Congress, the bill now goes to President Toribiong for his signature.

"I am still hopeful that the President will veto the bill just what he did before," Whipps said.

Last year President Toribiong vetoed a casino bill that was transmitted to his office by both houses of Congress.

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