On Friday, Senate President, Jude U. Hofschneider, announced that gambling in Saipan and the Northern Islands cannot be regulated by the Legislative Delegation of the third senatorial district (SNILD). According to the Senate president, the body has no authority to determine whether a bill should be passed to introduce and regulate gambling in the district of Saipan and the Northern Islands.
On October 26, House Local Bill 22-26 was pre-filed and was then introduced on October 29. The bill was referred to a committee of SNILD as the requirement for a minimum number of appearances was not met.
Senate President Addresses SNILD to Clarify House Local Bill Contradictions
Hofschneider addressed the SNILD in a letter, in which he noted that the delegation is not authorized to pass a local bill and introduce a casino law in accordance with Public Law 18-56. This piece of legislation is cited in the bill, stating that casino gaming and wagering is allowed on the territory of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) as long as such activities are conducted within the casino facilities owned by casino operators that have been licensed either under this law or have been authorized to operate according to the law of a senatorial district.
In the letter, the Senate Leader explains that the bill cites Public Law 19-56 which permits casino gaming activities in the CNMI, concluding that SNILD can introduce its local bill to introduce a casino law. However, Public Law 18-56 did not allow any senatorial district to authorize casino gaming through a local bill. What is more, according to the Senate president, House Local Bill 22-26 proposed regulations that are not following Public Law 18-56.
Even if Public Law 18-56 allowed SNILD to enact a casino law by passing a local bill, House Local Bill 22-26 was still contradictory to Public Law 18-56. Hofschneider also added that SNILD does not have the authority to pass a bill that will replace or contradict the casino commission and its authority that was introduced by Public Law 18-56.
SNILD Not Allowed to Pass Local Bill That Can Issue More Casino Licenses
Hofschneider also pointed out that SNILD is not authorized to pass a bill that will allow more casino licenses to be issued in the third senatorial district. The reason for that is that Public Law 18-56 had already stated that there can be only one license exclusively issued for operation in the CNMI.
According to Hofschneider, the bill’s intentions were to introduce a gambling commission that was supposed to act as an “agency of local government” in the third senatorial district. He also quoted the CNMI Constitution, noting that under Article Ⅵ, Section 8(a), no new local government agencies can be established unless two-thirds of qualified voters agree on that. The president of the Senate clarified that none of the senatorial districts were authorized neither by the public law nor the 4 CMC Subsection 2301 to enact their own casino laws.
After quoting the current public law and explaining the contradictory nature of House Local Bill 22-26, Hofschneider concluded that SNILD does not have the authority to establish such laws that will allow or regulate casino gaming in the CNMI.