Mark Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Imperial Pacific International, confirmed that the company is interested in online gambling which is proposed in a measure backed by the House.
At the public hearing on House Bill 21-31, Mr. Brown informed the members of the House Gaming Committee that his company backs online gaming. He further shared with local lawmakers that Internet gaming was being discussed in his first go-around in Imperial Pacific several years earlier.
IPI’s CEO explained that he was present to the public hearing to just listen and check on the prospects of the talks, until Edward C. Deleon Guerrero, the Executive Director of the Commonwealth Casino Commission, asked Mr. Brown to share his thoughts on the matter. Mr. Guerrero, on the other hand, asked the Committee to pay attention to the US Wire Act and how it applies to online gambling. He further noted that in case there are some federal restrictions, no players from outside the Commonwealth could be expected to join the local market because it would be illegal.
According to the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s Executive Director, the issue is being currently addressed by the Federal Government.
HB 21-31 Seeks to Authorize Online Gambling in All Three CNMI Senatorial Districts
At the time when the public hearing in the House chamber took place in the middle of the week, Mr. Guerrero urged the Committee to clarify whether it intends to allow a holder of an exclusive casino license to operate online gambling services. For the time being, there is only one such exclusive casino license holder in operation on the Northern Mariana Islands, and that is Imperial Pacific International.
Mr. Guerrero also confirmed that the company is willing to participate in the provision of such gambling services, in case the US Wire Act does not apply to the territory of the island. He further shared that the provision of Internet gaming would require from IPI to make a certain investment, but the territory authorities would also have to look at their regulations.
According to some lawmakers, most of the comments published by local community members on social media were not in favor of online gambling.
The HB 21-31, which was subject to the public hearing on Wednesday, seeks to authorize each of the three senatorial districts of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to establish online gambling operations. In April 2019, the bill was given the green light by the House Gaming Committee, but then it was returned to it for another consideration after the Attorney General’s office of the CNMI shared its concerns over some aspects of the bill.
As mentioned above, Mr. Guerrero expressed his concern with the addition of online gambling to the territory. The CNMI is a US commonwealth, and the provisions of the Wire Act do not allow US-licensed online gambling businesses to accept international customers. According to the author of the HB 21-31, Mr. Guerrero, the measure would provide a fresh source of revenue which is independent of tourist arrivals.