Petition To Repeal CNMI Casino Law Gets 3,000 Signatures

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More need to be submitted, verified, to force repeal referendum

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 9, 2014) – The petition to repeal the Saipan casino law garnered 3,000 signatures and was submitted to the Attorney General’s Office at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.

The petition needed the signatures of at least 20 percent of qualified voters. The CNMI, according to the Commonwealth Election Commission website, has 16,124 registered voters, which means that the petition needs 3,600 signatures.

But Marianas Economic Research & Development Foundation one of the groups pushing for the law’s repeal said it can still submit more signatures on or before July 6.

Foundation executive director Russell S. Schow told Variety in an interview that their signature drive is still ongoing, and he is confident that they will get an additional 1,000 signatures.

The AG’s office will have to verify that those who signed the petition are indeed qualified CNMI voters, and that their number meets the required 20 percent of the total number of registered voters in the commonwealth.

If certified, a referendum on the repeal of the Saipan casino law will be placed on the ballot this November, and it will be passed if supported by a majority of voters.

Gov. Eloy S. Inos, in an interview yesterday, said if voters reject the Saipan law, "then, that’s it."

That decision, he added, "will be final."

The main beneficiary of the Saipan casino law, according to its proponents, are CNMI retirees who would see the restoration of their 25 percent pension cut.

Schow told Variety that once the Saipan casino law is repealed by the voters, his group will send out a "request for concepts" to all large casino operators in the world with good reputations.

He said the request for concepts will ask potential investors what they would be willing to offer if Saipan voters allow casino gaming on their island.

Once proposals are submitted, he said the CNMI government or the people themselves can enact a new casino law.

Schow said this was what the government of Singapore did before it allowed casino gaming.

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