Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) has asked the country’s High Court to dismiss a poker lawsuit where plaintiffs challenged Saipan Adult Machine Business Zoning Law of 2013. The lawsuit over the implementation of the was filed by two poker arcade operators, who claimed a violation of their due process rights. They asked the federal court to overturn the law, which obliges all operators to relocate their poker arcades to designated commercial areas announced as permitted by the aforementioned law.
The two plaintiffs, known to be Sin Ho Nam, principal shareholder of Winnerslife Inc./Sin Ho Development Inc. and Dan Bi Choi LLC, have based their challenge on the notion of “interference with duly protected property interests”. They explained that their licenses expire in 2018 and the government is not allowed to ask them to relocate their machines from their current place prior to the termination of their agreements. The two operators asked the country’s High Court to invalidate the Saipan Adult Machine Business Zoning Law of 2013 as it violates their Constitutional right to due process of law.
The two plaintiffs pointed out that they will lose money from the relocation of their gambling machines. They added that the law does not allow them even to sell these machines to someone else as the number of the new machine licenses is limited. It is important also to note that the two men are holding investor visas, which is also under threat supposing that they lose their business operations in the country.
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands explained that the claims in the lawsuit are only a forecast, but not a certain fact. Furthermore, attorney Christopher Timmons, who represents the CNMI government the Zoning Board and its chairman Diego C. Blanco said that the plaintiffs are seeking relief from two authorities, including the Zoning Board and the court, which is unacceptable. Hence, the court should dismiss the legal challenge.
What Does the Controversial Zoning Law Say
The new Zoning Law was introduced in October 2013, but it came into effect only a month ago. It requires poker arcade operators and owners to relocate their machines to designated commercial areas and no less than 200 feet from other adult gambling machine businesses, churches, school parks or playgrounds. It was explained that the law’s aim is to protect residents of gambling-related problems, but not to hurt the operators’ businesses. According to some industry experts, the law also aims at making space for land-based casinos, as these are viewed as more profitable than the gambling machines.
The law states that the operators and owners, who refuse to relocate their poker arcade machines will have to pay a hefty fine of $1,000 per day. The new rules raised the operators’ eyebrows as they have not that many options left.