New markets come in all sizes, whether they be the big new playgrounds of the United States, or according to recent news, tiny island nations like the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). According to local outlet Marianas Variety, the country’s House Committee on Gaming approved House Bill 21-31, which if it becomes a law, would allow online gambling in the tiny island nation.
Committee Chairman Ralph Yumul had previously delayed the bill to allow the Attorney General’s office to provide commentary on the law. Even with this vote to carry the bill forward, Yumul abstained, citing concerns raised by the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC). That group had previously asked the House to study gambling further before making it a reality.
CCC Chairman Juan Sablan and acting Executive Director Charlie Atalig wrote:
“The commission’s main concerns include issues of money laundering and problem gambling. With proper regulation, these issues can be addressed and mitigated, but this can only occur after study and the development of best practices. These best practices may not yet be in place.”
Assuming the bill passes, the plan is to shift regulatory responsibility to the CCC. If that should happen, the group has recommended that operators will need to have a CNMI business license, have a physical presence in the country, and to use local or U.S. banks. “So doing will help minimize money laundering concerns while also helping maximize tax auditing and collections,” they advised.
The CNMI is no stranger to gambling, with the Imperial Pacific already running a temporary casino there since 2015, with construction on its permanent casino seeming to stretch on for an eternity. With several years of experience, you’d think the house members would be a little bit more comfortable, or knowledgeable, about gambling, but Yumul and the CCC didn’t appear to think so.
Now that the bill has gotten out of house committee, it will be up to the full 20-member house to vote it into law or not. The majority party was responsible for getting the bill this far, so it’s a fairly safe bet to expect it to get to the next stage.