Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, September 25th

Dental Hygiene and Fish
I read Tony Pellegrino’s column today about casinos that pay out in candy and couldn’t help but wonder if the idea was not suggested by local island dentists. I can see them being major sponsors in any such endeavor. All kidding aside, there are some commonly misunderstood details about the Casino gaming initiative coming up for a vote soon. Lets take a look at some common casino misconceptions:

Only one casino will be allowed: Not so, there can be several. All will be located inside of 200 room or larger hotels and resorts that are approved and granted rights to operate a regulated gaming operation. Only only one license will be allowed. That licensee will approve operating and development agreements with several approved casino owners and operators.

Non NMDs cannot participate in the investment or in the profits of casino gaming: Non NMDs can do so and will have many opportunities to invest if they wish to do so. Any residents or even non residents will have the chance to invest. Investment opportunities will abound. Many new casino operators will seek direct investors or offer tradable stocks in their companies. The single license and NMD only granting company is an organizational arrangement allowing the prime contractor (licensee) to be locally owned meaning much of the money will stay here for a change. Unlike foreign owned corporations and banks, which send all our money off island as soon as it is made.

The Casino Act is discriminatory or unconstitutional: Although untested in our CNMI courts, it has been tested on several occasions in US courts regarding very similar cases with Native American (Indian) solely owned casinos all across the United States. It has always been upheld as constitutional there. Why would it be discriminatory only here and not there?

Casinos on Saipan will harm Tinians chances to see their own fortunes bloom: Not so on three counts. First, like car lots and fast food restaurants that are placed in near proximity to each other, multiple casinos will draw in customers and feed off the tourist customers of each other. Second, Tinian already has several projects in the offing, two already have broken ground, and there is nothing to suggest that those projects will die. Thirdly, the considerable monies earned by taxing Saipan based casinos will be spread all around the CNMI and Tinianites will have access to those funds like all the rest of us CNMI residents. As a result, Tinians tourist traffic should go up, not down and their income from their own casinos, and indirectly from those on Saipan, will go up too.

Land will be ‘given’ to the IEI: Land, if used at all will only be loaned. Should IEI ever cease to exist, any and all lands would be returned to DLA. IEI may not need any land at all. The prime casino locations will be on larger hotel properties so IEI may not run one itself any time soon and may not need public land to do so at all.

Casino gaming sounds okay but I don’t like this particular way of doing it: This may not the best of all possible worlds but what is? Should we wait another 2 years until all the water has run out of the tub before we do something to start putting the water, and the much needed money, back in? This initiative enables us to start right away to try and heal our ailing economy with a fresh infusion of cash brought in by tourists and dedicated gamers. Many other businesses and private individuals will gain from this as the activity spills over into increased tourist arrivals and many more dollars are cycling through our economic system.
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Speaking of Tony Pellegrino and of dentists, we should thank him for investing in the technology to bring fluoridated water to us, and especially to our children here on Saipan. Tony seems to be willing to take chances and try new ventures where others fear to tread. Like an athlete that keeps on trying harder all the time, Mr. Pelligrino learns from his infrequent failures and is willing to test the boundaries of what is possible. I admire your spunk, Tony. While it may cut into the cavity drilling business of local dentists I thank you for providing my child and all the children here with fluoridated water. I bet the dentists do too.
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Fishing for compliments
Speaking of finding complimentary industries to enhance and diversify our economy here, there is one that is on the way. Fishing for bucks will be coming to the CNMI soon. Both major commercial fishing styles, long liners and purse seiners want to come into the waters surrounding the Marianas and harvest fish in great numbers.

Will the CNMI benefit from this monetary bounty or we only be stuck with the negative side of depleted fish stocks and diminishing hopes?

Thanks to rapacious greed, our friends in the US allow the CNMI to have rights to zero, nada, nothing that comes from the waters off our own shores. Some countries and territories claim 200 mile exclusion zones inside of which payment is received and jobs or fish processing concessions are received from commercial fishing or mining/harvesting activities conducted inside their waters. Other territories have 50 mile, 12 mile, 9 mile or 3 mile limits. We here in the CNMI have zero. That’s right, if commercial fishing is opened up foreign countries get the fish and the jobs and the money. The US gets a share and we get squat. Our fish supplies dwindle and we get ….nothing.

Reportedly there are at least 5 companies that want to take our fish stocks and will have no obligation to pay us anything at all for it.

Likewise if mineral deposits or other valuable items are found off our shores we currently have no rights to them or to any income derived from them.

It is imperative that the CNMI have access to income sources from it’s surrounding waters. As an Island Nation/Territory we have little land and if we have nothing from the waters surrounding us it means our future prosperity is very much restricted by US Federal whim. We should continue to lobby diligently to gain a 200 mile exclusion zone and access to all monetary gains derived from it.

On Sept 22nd. (last Saturday) a birthday passed without much fanfare: Joan Jett turned 47. She loves rock and roll. She was black hearted. 47 sounds old when you are 17..hell, 25 sounds old when you are 17. 26 years ago when she was 21 (which doesn’t sound too bad to 17 year olds cause they will be able to drink then) she ground out an anathematic hit that still reverberates the soul of rock and roll today. Guitar wailing like a lawn mower for short bursts at the end of phrases, a slow driving beat, suggestive (for then) lyrics and a gravely alto delivery made this song and that singer a classic. Happy birthday Joan Jett. Thanks Joan Jett and the Blackhearts for I Love Rock and Roll. By the way I’ve got shoes older than a 17 year old, perhaps older than a 26 year old…but none, thank goodness, that were dancing in 1960.
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Rejoice, it’s only 252 days until school is out! (more or less)
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Quote of the week:
Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream. W.C.Fields (1880-1946)


Boni said...

Who's Joan Jett? Kidding, only kidding? Woo hoo, only 252 days. The candy thing is a no no in our wellness policy.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

The countdown to end of school is a left handed way of making fun of the Trib's countdown to Christmas starting in SEPTEMBER for goodness sake.

I think I'll continue counting down until at least after Christmas, maybe all the way to schools end. (:-))

Bruce A. Bateman said...

For you whippersnappers, I have added a video link to JJATBH's R&R tune near the bottom of the article.


lil_hammerhead said...

It's rare that an argument makes me consider my position on something. Your peice on the Saipan casinos is one of those rare arguments. I'll have to think on this casino thing a bit more I guess.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Thanks for giving it additional consideration, Lil.

It seems like the best available option to me, Lil. Do nothing and continue tubing or try something that is at least proven to work elsewhere and give ourselves a chance.

Poker room owner's money is now coming out of the woodwork against the Casino Act knowing that the IEI intends to remove them from the villages. A good sign (sorry) that IEI is on the right track I think.

Silly Socrates said...

Say NO to casiNO!

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Silly sounds like Ambrose Bennett except that he can usually affix both subject and predicate to the same sentence.

Anonymous said...

Plato Says:

October 13th, 2007 at 6:51 pm
Buying stock in NMDIC will not guarantee you any return. This company (when of if set up) has no record. The stock you own can not be sold or transferred for profit to anyone. Only NMD will be able to own shares in this company. The company itself has no casino operation or experience. By buying stock in this company you simply are putting your money and your faith in a company you know nothing of. If you have $500 to invest please call a financial expert and ask for recommendations on what your best options would be in order to see some type of return. NMDIC will sell all their stocks in order to have the money needed to pay for the license. Yes they will need $300,000 to buy the license from the Commission. Then they will scout around the globe looking for a casino operator that is crazy enough to abide by this Acts provision. That will be difficult at most to come by and will take time. IF they do secure a casino operator willing to jump blindly into this situation then the operator will pay $250,000 to the commission to proceed with operations. so far NMDIC will still not have seen any profit at all during this time. Keep in mind that NMDIC is not known to people. How much will their Directors and Board Members and employees and operating expenses cost? Where will they get their money while waiting to land a crazy casino investor? How long will it take for a casino to be constructed? How long will it take for the constructed casino to start showing any type of profit? 3 - 8 years from completion? Microsoft is a hugely successful business and it’s common shareholders have never been paid a dividend. There is nothing in this ACT that states that you as a shareholder will ever be promised a return on your investment.

The $500 you spend on buying the NMDIC common share will be coupled with the enormous amount of money that your tax dollars will be used for in order to create and staff a newly formed Commission of 7 members ($366,000/year), their staff and consultants (approx: $180,000/year), a treasurer (approx: $85,000/year), an Exec Director (approx: $85,000/year), both their staff respectively (approx: $210,000/year), their travel - to attend conferences and brush up on the gaming industry (approx: $60,000/year), Attorneys (approx: $200,000/year), Their vehicles, power bills, telecommunications, offices, insurance, etc (approx: $280,000/year), legal fees to fend off all the litigation that has been promised once this act passes ($200,000). TOTAL is in excess of $1.6 Million.

Where on earth is the CNMI going to get the funding necessary to create and fund this newly formed Commission? You may say that the money to fund it will come from the Casinos. This may be true but in how many years?

The Proponents say that this ACT is the solution to our economic woes. How many Gov’t Jobs will need to be cut and how many public programs affected in order to move 1.6 million over to this Commission until the Casinos Investors agree to the terms of NMDIC, Until the casinos are constructed, Until the Games are put in, Until they are able to draw the people to their casino, Until the casino is able to show any type of profit? WE are talking realistically around 4 - 5 years. That is barring any legal action that could halt any casino being built. All the time the casino Commission by law would already be created and using the $1.5 million per year. If litigation takes another 3 years are we prepared to fund this?

Do we really want $6.6 Million of our tax dollars over the next 4 years used in this way? If we have that much to invest of our tax dollars is this the industry we want to use it for?

If you truly are looking at this from the standpoint that it will benefit our economy then do it right. Ask to see the Business Plan for NMDIC, ask them for signed promissory agreements from potential casino operators, ask them for a list of their Directors, Board members, Owners, Employees, etc. Ask for the background on what makes them experts in this field. Ask for the business plans for the potential operators. Ask about the rate of return and ask for it in writing. Ask them for realistic timelines. Ask about their defense in the face of the almost certain litigation. Ask where the $1.6 million will come from in the CNMI Government to fund the Commission. Ask where NMDIC will get their money to operate and run efficiently prior to securing a casino operator.

Ask them to help you understand.

Who is NMDIC?
Why are we willing to entrust this one company to have a sole monopoly?
Where is their Business Plan?
Where are promissory agreements from potential investors?
Where is the background info on the NMDIC Owners, Board Members and employees that give them the neseccary qualifications to secure investors?
Where is any proof of financial gain for any investor in NMDIC?
Where is any proof in writing within the SCA that shows any model for financial gain for the CNMI?

I can go on and on. I will quit now. I really wish people would look at the ACT itself and not the issue of gambling.

When you go to the poll in November you are not voting to allow gambling. You are voting to allow NMDIC to have full control over allowing gambling. They will seek out investors. They will solely negotiate with them. They will decide who can come and who can not.

Read the Act. Ask questions. Know the ACT before you vote yes or no on it.

Is this right for the CNMI?