Guam Auditor To Examine Fiesta Gambling Activities

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Any village gambling must be authorized by governor

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 3, 2014) – Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks Monday confirmed her office plans to audit the gambling activity at the Tiyan carnival grounds, following a request made by Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz.

"We will be working on it," she said.

Cruz, D-Piti, said he is concerned specifically about the selection and bidding process for the casino operations and whether there is proper taxation and oversight.

He also questioned the rules of play, including how much the house takes from the wagers and whether or not winners are issued tax forms.

Villages have been using the Tiyan site over the last five months for gambling operations as part of their annual fiestas with approval of the governor, Sinajana Mayor Robert Hofmann said last week. Hofmann also serves as vice president of the Mayors' Council of Guam.

However, some of the gambling that took place at the Tiyan carnival grounds was done without the administration's knowledge, the governor's spokesman, Julius Santos, said last week.

With the exception of two villages, Gov. Eddie Calvo approved gambling to take place within the villages themselves and not at the Tiyan site, according to the governor's office.

Gambling during village fiestas must be authorized by the governor.

Hofmann said the villages of Mangilao, Talofofo, Sinajana, Agana Heights and Dededo have used the site for fiesta-related gambling this year, with proceeds going toward village events and projects. The villages were approved to use the site for two weekends, at the most, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., Hofmann said.

The governor approved 75 days of gambling for villages this year, spread out among 11 villages, according to the governor's approval letters.

Hofmann said his village used the Tiyan site for six days in October, raising around $3,000 that went toward village functions.

The governor also approved 70 days of gambling this year as part of the Liberation Day carnival, Hofmann said.

Another investigation

The Office of the Attorney General also announced an investigation into the allegation that village mayors took part in unauthorized gambling operations at the Tiyan carnival site.

The allegations were brought about by anti-casino-gambling group Linala Sin Casino. The group raised concerns about gambling taking place at the site following the close of the Liberation Day carnival in August.

The group noted that Guam voters have repeatedly rejected the legalization of casino gambling on island.

Office of the Attorney General spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros said the investigation is ongoing. The office submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for documents to the Mayors' Council several weeks ago, and the council has been cooperative in providing the information, she said.

"We are reviewing those documents and the investigation is ongoing," Charfauros said.

Hofmann said he submitted documents before the AG's FOIA request was sent. He sent the Office of the Attorney General copies of mayors' letters to the governor, approval letters from the governor outlining the games, copies of tax payments to the Department of Revenue and Taxation and alcoholic beverage licenses.

Rev and Tax Director John Camacho said last week that officials from Rev and Tax's ABC Branch, the department's regulatory branch, would ensure operations were consistent with the law.

Among the ways Rev and Tax would monitor the site include whether the mayoral offices were compliant with the dates and times allotted to them by the governor.

Additionally, the ABC Branch ensures the mayors' offices conducting the games of chance are reporting for tax purposes and paying taxes, Camacho said.

Rev and Tax was under the impression that the mayors had received approval from the governor to hold gambling at the Tiyan site, he said.

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