The Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) – the gaming regulator for the Northern Mariana Islands – has described a new bill raising the maximum penalty that can be imposed on operators or individuals for breaking casino laws to US$800,000 as “excessive.”
House Bill 20-50, which has already passed through House Gaming Committee, promises to raise the maximum penalty per violation that could be imposed on Saipan integrated resort operator Imperial Pacific International from its current level of US$50,000 to US$800,000. The new maximum had originally been set at US$5 million before the committee reduced it.
Nevertheless, CCC Executive Director Edward Deleon Guerrero told the Saipan Tribune that the penalty ceiling was too high.
“We looked at Nevada, New Jersey, Singapore, Macau, Australia and South Korea for how much they charge for personal violation versus a company violation,” he said, noting that a US$800,000 penalty would make it the highest maximum penalty of any US jurisdiction.
“It is three times higher than any US jurisdiction. We gave a recommendation of $250,000 as a ceiling per violation.”
CCC Commissioner Juan M Sablan also recommended the maximum fine be reduced to at least US$500,000, noting that the maximum penalty in New Jersey is $50,000 for individuals and $200,000 for companies, with the maximum in Nevada only slightly higher at US$250,000.
He added that Macau imposes a maximum penalty of US$62,171 for individuals and US$621,712 for organization while Singapore is just US$7,042 for individuals and US$70,422 for organizations.
However, Sablan said that he supported the idea of House Bill 20-82, which improves the CCC’s regulatory power.
“The commission feels that H.B. 20-82 is a most important bill for the commission as it equips the commission with the tools and resources necessary for an efficient and effective implementation of our casino laws and regulations,” he said. “The commission was granted autonomy in Public Law 19-24 but with no guidance on how that autonomy is to be exercised.
“H.B. 20-82 provides the procedures and the guidelines to clarify the commission’s autonomy in critical areas necessary for the successful enforcement and implementation of our statutory mandates as the CNMI’s regulatory agency for the casino industry on Saipan.”