Limited gambling will be allowed at this year’s Liberation Day festival in Guam after Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has signed Bill 101-35 into law. Games such as poker, blackjack, and bingo will officially return at the carnival, although interesting gaming vendors have little time to prepare as the festivities start June 5.
Lawmakers approved the legislation that lays out the rules and regulations for games of chance in a 10-5 vote on Wednesday. Sen. Jose Terlaje’s Bill 101 does not allow gambling on the island but, rather, sets the rules for games such as poker, beto beto, blackjack, and a few others that would be offered during specific annual celebrations, including Guam’s Island Fair and the Liberation Day Carnival. The session lasted for five hours and the entire debate focused on Bill 101. Those voting against the measure were Senators Telena Nelson, Sabina Perez, Therese Terlaje, Régine Biscoe Lee, and Mary Torres.
Despite the vote, however, the bill could not come into effect without the Governor’s signature and Friday afternoon, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero finally signed the paper, officially approving the legislation. The newly signed law now allows the Mayors’ Council of Guam (MCOG) to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for vendors who will be bidding for a gaming license.
Before submitting a bid, however, interested operators will be required to take part in the pre-bid conference, MCOG Executive Director Angel Sablan explained. This is one of the new requirements set out in the law and the announcement for this pre-bid stage is expected next week. However, time is running out for the bidding process and the selection of licensees as Liberation Day carnival starts in just over a month, on June 5.
Gaming Bids Alone Can Generate $580,000
Signing the bill into law, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero pointed out that the measure is providing the much-needed funding for the events during this year’s Liberation Day carnival. On July 21, the island will mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation from Japanese occupation during World War II. Events associated with Liberation Day start May 12 but the festival is kicking off June 5 and will continue through August 8.
The funding for all fireworks, utilities, and various celebrations and parades is expected to come from the games of chance, which will be offered in the so-called House of Cards. There will be two facilities of this type and access to them will be restricted to individuals aged 21 and older. Mayors believe that gaming bids alone can generate up to $580,000 and it will be used for covering all public costs associated with the carnival – the parade, fireworks, and even the portable toilets.
The games that would be offered during the festivities will include baccarat, blackjack, monte, pusoy (a Filipino-style poker), and Texas Hold’em. While these five games will be limited to the House of Cards facilities, several other games will be allowed anywhere on the carnival grounds – bingo, beto beto, the color game, big and small.
Although the bill was signed into law, Vice Speaker Telena Nelson issued a statement, opposing the decision. In it, she described the new piece of legislation as a “Trojan horse for gambling” that has “deceived” the people of Guam.