Lawmakers discuss lifting moratorium on poker machines

Saipan lawmakers are considering lifting a moratorium on poker machines to help make up for the shortfall in casino revenues. 

During an informal meeting to discuss cost-containment and revenue-generating measures, House Gaming Committee Chairman Ralph Yumul raised the idea of lifting moratoriums on certain business activities, including poker arcades.

As of April 2015, Saipan casino law states that “no new or additional licenses for poker, pachinko, or similar amusement machines, but not including electronic gaming machines, shall be granted or allowed to operate outside of the approved casino establishment.”

At that time, there were over 900 licensed poker machines on Saipan. This number has dropped to around 500 poker machines due to the moratorium. 

Sablan said lifting the moratorium could cushion the CNMI from the impact of the casino industry revenue loss.

“The idea is to allow those businesses to expand, which could generate additional revenue for the government,” he said.

Casino revenue fell 50 percent in 2018, according to data from the  U.S. Department of Commerce-Bureau of Economic Analysis.