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12 23Fri04182014

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Senators hit Bill 19 changes

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Amendment calls for ban on all gambling

AFTER the Legislature unanimously passed Bill 19 on a vote of 15-0, a group of senators later raised concerns that the amendments passed by Sens. Ben Pangelinan and Michael San Nicolas lack sufficient stakeholder input.

Bill 19, introduced by Sen. Chris Duenas, seeks to regulate gaming activities allowed by law, collect fees and taxes from licensed operators, and make funds available for improvements to Guam’s sporting facilities.

Lawmakers yesterday passed an amended version of the Duenas measure which incorporates provisions from Bill 20, a bill introduced by Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, which proposes to use tax revenue from gaming machines to help pay off Guam Memorial Hospital debts.

The gaming machines have been controversial as they were recently issued licenses by the Department of Revenue and Taxation, even though the Attorney General’s Office contends they are illegal.

Sens. Tina Muña-Barnes, Rory Respicio, V. Anthony Ada, Rodriguez, Aline Yamashita and Brant McCreadie were the senators who raised concerns about two specific amendments.

A collective statement released by the six senators said "Pangelinan legalized the entire limited gaming industry by offering his last-minute amendment on the measure prior to voting."

Pangelinan's amendment states, "All taxes imposed by the Act and the authority to license all gaming, limited gaming, and gambling referenced herein shall be repealed upon the payment of vendors of GMH listed in Exhibit A appended herein.’

Exhibit A

But the six lawmakers said that despite Pangelinan’s references to “Exhibit A,” he failed to provide any “Exhibit A” attachments to his floor amendment. They added that when the engrossed version of Bill No. 19-32 (COR) was presented to lawmakers for voting, no exhibit was attached.

In addition, the statement reads: "Sen. Mike San Nicolas then included an amendment to Sen. Pangelinan’s amendment that would ban ALL gaming activities once the GMH vendor debt is fully satisfied pursuant to the Exhibit A reference by the Pangelinan amendment that neither exists nor was duly adopted by the Legislature."

The senators said they are also "extremely concerned" about the long-term effects the Pangelinan/San Nicolas amendments will have by permanently banning cockfighting, bingo, raffles, and other activities supported by non-profit organizations and events on the village level.

In terms of stakeholder input, the six senators said the Legislature should have spoken with the non-profit entities and the senior citizen groups before taking action.

"While gaming may have some unfortunate consequences, we believe that overall, our man'åmko' and our non-profit organizations are responsible and should be able to decide their activities. They are deserving of this respect and regard," the senators said.

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