The all-male Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) may soon have a female member after the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Senate approved a bill to add two more seats to the agency.
The Marianas Variety reported that members of Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 20-87, which will pave the way for the appointment of a female and a person of Carolinian descent to the CCC.
Under the present setup, the all-male CCC is composed of three members representing Saipan and representatives from Rota and Tinian: Board Chairman Juan M. Sablan, Joseph Reyes, Alvaro Santos, Justin Manglona, and Martin San Nicolas.
SB20-87, which was introduced by Sen. Justo Quitugua, was sent to the House of Representatives last week. In pushing for the additional CCC members, Quitugua pointed out that there’s a constitutional mandate that every board or commission should have at least one Carolinian member and a female member.
The proposed measure will give Saipan Gov. Ralph DLG Torres the power to appoint a female and Carolinian commissioner.
The CCC has expressed its opposition to the Senate’s plan. In a letter to the Senate, Sablan pointed out that adding two more commissioners would cost the agency around $250,000.
Sablan said that the funds received from the annual casino regulatory fee paid by Saipan’s exclusive casino licensee, Imperial Pacific International, aren’t sufficient enough to sustain seven members of the CCC.
The CCC also contended that the gender and ethnicity requirements of the CNMI Constitution excluded the board composition of the Rota Casino Gaming Commission and the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission.
While the intention of the bill was good, the commission noted that the agency is already effectively functioning with its present composition.
Meanwhile, former and current female government officials have thrown their support behind SB20-87.
Testifying before the Senate, former Rep. Ana S. Teregeyo insisted that “it is imperative that [the commission] have broad-based representation in its leadership and include a female representative as it is a new industry with many challenges.”