Saipan mayor: Bill to increase poker-license fee will have negative impact on SHEFA

SAIPAN Mayor David M. Apatang said House Local Bill 20-21, which will double the license fee for poker and pachinko machines, may be too sudden.

He noted that lawmakers did not pass the measure that would have given poker arcades in residential villages more time to relocate to zoning districts where they are permitted to operate.

“As it now stands, [these] licensees have to relocate…no later than Oct. 24, 2017,” he said, adding that the affected businesses, if they decide to relocate, are likely to incur expenses related to their new business site.

David M. Apatang

He said the operators will have to enter into a new agreement for the rental or lease of commercial space. They must also connect to the island utility system and construct and prepare space for occupancy and operation.

Introduced by Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, H.L.B. 20-21 will increase the license fee for each machine from $6,000 to $12,000.

Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance, a scholarship program of the Saipan mayor’s office, is funded by poker-license fees.

“We indicated our support of the intent of the bill only from the stand point of increasing the revenue collections and receipts that support the SHEFA program,” the mayor said, adding that the scholarship program helps students pay a portion of their tuition and living expenses as they pursue their post-secondary education.

“Because we support education and an educated community, we believe the proposed increase is one way of encouraging the growth that we seek by having a strong and vibrant middle-class, a growth that has been correlated with education,” the mayor said.

But he said most poker-arcade operators would find the proposed fee hike prohibitively expensive.

“We believe there is no real reason at this time to raise the license fee. Doing so will discourage operators of adult gambling machines, and they may cease operation which would have a negative impact on the student-assistance program that has benefited college students.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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