$50,000 advice

THE House leadership’s recent veto-override attempt was, among other things, a way to “test” how far the Arnold-Dave Republicans would go against the governor’s expressed wishes. Now we know. Or do we? There will be other contentious issues down the line, and they will be more contentious and heated as we approach the Nov. 2022 elections.

Last week, one of the line-item vetoes that was successfully overridden by the House — by a 15 to 3 vote — pertained to a provision that would authorize the Office of Planning and Development, at a cost of $50,000, to conduct a casino feasibility study. (By the way, the Republican-led Senate must also override the line-item veto.)

In his FY 2022 budget transmittal letter to the Legislature, the governor said the feasibility study should be conducted by the Commonwealth Casino Commission which has, he added, “the expertise to determine the market potential as well as the legal and regulatory structure of the casino gaming industry.”

According to one of the override proponents, “there is a need for an independent, professional and impartial study.” Sure. But then again, the Office of Planning and Development is under the governor’s office. Would the governor’s political opponents accept the “impartiality” of a report about a controversial industry from his Office of Planning and Development?

There is a better way to obtain an “independent, professional and impartial” study, and it would not cost the CNMI government a penny. Let the interested investors — if there are any — conduct a feasibility study. They would have to spend millions and millions of dollars in a casino establishment on this small, remote island, and deal with so many challenges just to ensure its survival (never mind success).  They, of all people, would want to know the feasibility of their own multi-million-dollar venture.

As for the CNMI government, its proper role is to ensure that it has the laws, regulations and regulatory offices in place, and that a casino license holder complies with them. Right now, IPI is in a lot of legal trouble because rules and laws — federal and local — are in place, and they are being enforced. IPI is being held accountable. It is not “getting away” with whatever violations it is accused of committing. However, even IPI is entitled to due process under local and federal laws.

The CNMI, which is part of the U.S., has a court of law — not kangaroo courts. This U.S. Commonwealth has a justice system based on the rule of law, not on the say-so of anyone. And thank God for that.


From ‘A Man for All Seasons’

WILLIAM Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

William Roper: “Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!”

Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!”


If it's feasible, legitimate investors will express interest

 IPI is crumbling under the weight of its legal obligations, alleged violations and self-inflicted “mistakes,” many of which are truly boneheaded.

Some may say that IPI’s rapid rise and more rapid fall “shows” that casino gaming is “not feasible” in the CNMI. Maybe. But others say that IPI has clearly demonstrated what a casino investor should not do if it wants to do business here.

As for similar studies for Tinian and Rota — are there legitimate casino investors interested in those islands? No? There you go.

As we’ve said before, if the real concern  is casino gaming itself — that it’s bad any way you slice it, even if it pays for the retirees’ pensions — then for all that is good and holy stop skirting around the issue and repeal the casino gaming law through legislation or a referendum petition. The first (1978) casino law didn’t repeal itself. Voters did (in 1979). If the anti-casino individuals believe that the current law (enacted in 2014) was “shoved down the people’s throats,” then what are they waiting for? Circulate the petition already.


Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His four books are available on amazon.com

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