The House of Representatives in the Northern Marianas island of Saipan has approved a bill to regulate and tax online gaming. House Bill 17-129, the Internet Gambling Act of 2010, passed by the narrowest of margins (10-9) after lengthy debate. (FYI, six of the nine who voted ‘nays’ were Republicans – read into that what you will.) To give an indication of the strong feelings on all sides of the debate, when the bill passed, the House speaker reportedly cursed into an open microphone.
The man behind the bill, Rep. Joseph Palacio, claims he was motivated in part by the fact that the activity was already taking place on the island. With the legislation in place, Palacio hopes to “regulate and tax internet gambling and generate revenue. Right now, people here who gamble do not pay taxes.” But other representatives claimed that there were no specifics offered as to how the scheme would work, or even if it complied with federal law.
Despite the House vote, the Senate has yet to weigh in with its opinion, and it has proven to hold a much harsher view towards gambling in general. In August, a similar land-based casino bill was passed in the House, only to be quashed on arrival in the Senate. In other words, don’t hold your breath.