Legislators in the Northern Mariana Islands have discussed the huge possibility of removing a moratorium for the largest Northern Mariana Island, Saipan which prevents local operators of arcade games from introducing new poker machines. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or simply the Northern Mariana Islands is a small area in the United States that consists of fourteen islands located in the Pacific Ocean.
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands features the fourteen northernmost islands located in the Mariana Archipelago excluding the Island of Guam which is another United States territory. All in all, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam make the United States westernmost areas. The Island of Saipan is the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands. As estimated back in 2017, it has a population of around 52,000 residents.
Current Poker Machines Moratorium Active Since 2014
According to one report released by the Marianas Variety news outlet, the current moratorium on poker machines for the island of Saipan came as a result of the 2014 legislation. According to this legislation from July 2014, operators cannot obtain mandatory licenses to offer any kind of new poker machines or similar machines with the exception of offering electronic gaming machines. This legislation named Public Law 18-56 also prevents such gaming units from being offered outside of the legalized, approved casino facilities.
In its report, the Marianas Variety news also cited the United States Department of Commerce’s Economic Bureau whose latest economic analysis on the island of Saipan displays disappointing gaming revenues for this area. In fact, the Bureau of Economic shared that the island of Saipan is facing a massive 50% drop in gaming revenues on a yearly basis due to rapidly declining tourist and visitor numbers in 2020.
The biggest reason behind these declining numbers is the outbreak of a highly-infectious coronavirus strain in the city of Wuhan, China. Today, the island of Saipan is home to the iconic Imperial Palace Saipan facility operated by Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited. This property, in particular, had regularly welcomed Chinese gamblers who enjoyed the venue’s rich gaming floor packed with over three hundred and fifty slot machines alongside two hundred gaming tables.
New Legislative Propositions
Reported by the Marianas Variety news outlet, Ralph Yumul who works for the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives has suggested that the Saipan territory assuage some of the growing gambling shortfalls by removing the poker machines moratorium from 2014. The forty-eight-year-old legislator also works as Chairman for the territory’s House Gaming Committee.
He said that his proposed change would only affect the island of Saipan including those areas in which such gaming units were permitted before that freeze from July 2014. In his official press release, Mr. Yumul said that the main idea behind his proposition is to allow operators and businesses to expand so that additional revenues can be expected.
Also reported by the Marianas Variety newspaper, the island of Saipan currently serves as home to around five hundred rather aging and old poker machines. However, the second piece of legislation of the island prohibits the operation of such units in a variety of places including tourist resorts, commercial districts and other parts of the community. Mr. Yumul said that he will continue to communicate with fellow lawmakers in search of ways to bring the island of Saipan some fresh gaming revenues.