The House Committee on Gaming at the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature approved on Tuesday two casino-related bills that are aimed at improving the regulated gambling environment in the Commonwealth, local news outlet Marianas Variety reported.
House Bills 20-50 and 20-82 gained the necessary support during the Tuesday Committee vote, but are yet to be introduced to the full House floor.
Generally speaking, HB 20-50 calls for an increase of the maximum amount that can be imposed as a fine in case of violations of existing casino regulations. At present, Commonwealth casino regulators can imposed a maximum fine of $50,000.
The other legislative piece, HB 20-82, is concerned with the powers of the Commonwealth Casino Commission, the regulatory body tasked with the local casino industry’s oversight. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero, aims to introduce more clarity on the powers of the regulatory body as well as certain related changes. One of the proposals included in the legislative piece called for casino commissioners to be allowed to serve one more term. At present, officials at the commission can only serve a single six-year term. Here it is important to note that Rep. Deleon Guerrero chairs the House Committee on Gaming.
HB 20-50 and What It Will Change if Adopted
HB 20-50 was introduced by Rep. Edwin Propst. The piece of legislation is focused on the way local casino regulators punish violators of the established regulatory regime. Currently, the maximum fine that one can face for breaching casino laws in any way is $50,000.
However, Rep. Propst has repeatedly pointed out that the amount is “a pittance” when bearing in mind that there are instances of casinos raking in that money in a single player bet. This is why, the legislator went on to say, a fine of $50,000 is not likely to discourage casino operators from violations.
HB 20-50 calls for an increase of the maximum fine to $800,000. Rep. Propst explained that different violations will be treated and penalized differently, but that severe breaches of regulations should be imposed a sufficiently high fine. Here it is also important to note that the bill originally proposed a maximum fine of $5 million but that proposal was scrapped in favor of the one the Committee on Gaming approved on Tuesday.
Rep. Propst expressed hope that the new fine, if approved by the Legislature, would deter casino operators from violations of the local gambling rules. However, he further noted that continuous violations could eventually be punished with revocation of the violator’s casino license.
Last year, the Commonwealth’s casino regulations were amended to include license application guidelines for junket operators, the companies that promote casino services to VIP players from the Asia-Pacific region. Casino officials back then acknowledged the importance of such companies for the success of the local gambling industry, but pointed out that these should conduct their activities in a regulated environment.