SNILD passes bill to expand poker zones

THE Saipan and Northern Island Legislative Delegation on Friday passed a local measure to amend a local law to expand the operation of poker parlors in certain designated zones.

17 members voted to pass House Local Bill 20-47 Draft 2, which is to amend Saipan Local Law 19-4.

Representative Edwin Propst and Minority Leader Edmund Villagomez voted no.

Senator Justo Quitugua and Representative Jose Itibus were absent from the session.

The local measure introduced by the SNILD chairman John Paul Sablan originally proposed to amend the Saipan Zoning Law of 2013 to allow adult gaming machines to be operated in any zoning district where gaming machines are allowed.

Sablan said the current local law, which has been amended several times, was inconsistent and needed to be amended again.

His bill proposes to simplify the zoning law with respect to poker operations by making them uniform and consistent.

Saipan Zoning Office Administrator Therese Ogumoro expressed concern with the language of Sablan’s proposed bill and suggested that the language of Saipan Local Law 19-4 be clarified further in order to correct the designation of certain commercial areas as ones permitting adult gambling machines.

Ogumoro suggested that some phrases in the law be deleted and replaced to clarify the exact locations where poker establishments will be allowed in certain areas for conformity.

“The Zoning Office also believes that the additional expansion of poker-designated zones from Chalan Msgr Guerrero to Orchid Street or along Beach Road/ Chalan Tomas Sablan to Afetna Road are in areas of commercial activity and exposed to the public,” she noted in her transmittal letter.

Sablan then offered a substitute bill to House Local Bill 20-47 to address the Administrator’s concerns.

“We felt that we needed a little more time to weigh in on it, because ultimately this is about poker—and a majority of the feedback that we get from our constituents indicates that most want to see less poker, not more,” said Rep. Edwin Propst, noting that the substitute bill was just introduced during the session.

“That’s why I wasn’t comfortable. There’s no reason to rush on a decision about this. What’s the emergency?” he asked.

The substitute bill now proposes to amend Saipan Local Law 19-4 to insert language that the Administrator suggested to make the law consistent.

The proposed amendments now read:

“Section 2 amendment. Article 6 Section 612 (b) of the Saipan Zoning Law of 2013 SLL 18-04 as amended by Saipan Local Laws 18-5 and 19-4 is hereby amended as follows: (b) an adult gambling machine business shall only be located: (1) within tourist resort and mixed commercial districts on lots abutting or west of Beach and Chalan Tomas Sablan from Afetna Road to Chalan Msgr. Guerrero and on lots abutting or west of Chalan Pale Arnold from Chalan Msgr. Guerrero to Orchid Street, as well as in the Garapan Core, Garapan East and Beach Road zoning districts, if the business is located 200 feet from a church, Laundromat, public or private school, park, playground or other adult gambling machine business; or (2) in a hotel with more than 20 rooms if it is located within the Garapan Core, Garapan East, Beach Road, Tourist Resort or Mixed Commercial Zoning Districts and (3) the restrictions on adult gambling businesses in sections (1) and (2) of this subsection shall not apply to the holder of a license issued by the Commonwealth Lottery Commission pursuant to PL 18-56.”

The amendments lift the provision to allow poker establishments to operate on Dama De Noche Street to include Orchid Street.

A majority of the members approved the proposed amendments with the support of the Saipan Zoning Office and passed the bill in the form of House Local Bill 20-47 Draft 2.

The measure now goes to the Governor’s desk for action.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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