Zoning official: No to poker arcade bill

ZONING Administrator Therese Ogumoro is opposed to House Local Bill 20-47 which will allow poker machines in all mixed commercial zones.

In a letter to the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, Ogumoro also expressed her opposition to House Local Bills 20-48 and 20-39.

H.L.B. 20-47 will amend the Saipan Zoning Law of 2013 to allow adult gaming machines to be operated in any zoning district where gaming machines are allowed. The local bill was introduced by the delegation chairman, Rep. John Paul Sablan.

He also introduced H.L.B. 20-48 which will amend Saipan Official Zoning Map sheets 17, 23 and 27 of 29 to rezone certain districts to mixed commercial.

House Local Bill 20-39, which was introduced by Vice Speaker Janet Maratita, will amend Saipan Local Law 19-4 to restrict adult gambling-machine businesses to certain areas.

Ogumoro said although the intent of H.L.B. 20-47 is to bring consistency in poker operations in one district, the Zoning Office believes it will allow poker arcades to operate in all areas zoned mixed commercial throughout the island.

Ogumoro said the bill will also contradict the mandate of Saipan Local Law 18-5 which aims to “prevent the deleterious location and concentration of adult businesses,” and “provide for a socially and commercially acceptable location of adult gambling-machine businesses.”

She said S.L.L. 18-5 was enacted “to ensure that adult gambling machines are centralized within certain geographical areas and that all other poker arcades not within these geographical areas will be considered nonconforming which meant that they would eventually be required to relocate to designated zones.”

She said S.L.L. 18-5 “not only limited adult gambling establishments to certain zoning districts, but limited them to certain geographic areas within those zones.”

Regarding H.L.B. 20-48, Ogumoro said it intends to rezone lots on Koblerville Road, amend map sheet 23 for the As Lito area and map sheet 17 for Kagman.

She said the bill will defeat the entire purpose of S.L.L. 18-5 which is to move poker businesses away from residential village areas and into designated zones.

“All these areas which are proposed for mixed-commercial rezoning directly abut and are within close proximity to residential areas. The mixed commercial will not only permit existing poker establishments to continue to operate in and among our residential villages, but it will also allow back the operation of poker establishment that recently vacated these areas. This will furthermore allow other intense uses to operate adjacent to residential neighborhoods. These uses include automotive sales, construction equipment sales and rental, funeral homes, pawnshops, storage areas, truck van trailer rental, vehicle repair shops, warehousing and general wholesaling,” Ogumoro said.

Rezoning the areas mentioned in the bill will allow three poker arcades to continue to operate in Kagman as well as one in Koblerville and three in As Lito, she added.

“It should be noted that of the 20 adult gaming establishments affected by S.L.L. 18-5, 11 have been proactive and have moved to conforming locations. By giving in to those few holdouts the delegation will in effect be punishing those law-abiding establishments who have incurred significant expense to conform.”

As for H.L.B. 20-39, Ogumoro said it should be revised for proper reference to the section of the law it is proposing to amend. In addition, she said the bill’s intent has already been addressed by S.L.L. 20-12.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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