Industry Reports

Poker Arcades Operators Ask Saipan Zoning Board to Extend Relocation Period

Poker machines can be easily deemed to be one of the most popular games around the world. Their popularity can be attributed to the fact that these electronic gambling devices do not require any special skills. In addition to that, video poker is a fast-paced entertaining game, which is as close to traditional poker as any casino game can get. However, these electronic gambling devices have the power to enchant the players, who sit as if in a stupor in front of the machine and keep on blowing away their money.

Quite unsurprisingly, the video poker machines appeared in the blacklist of many countries, which are trying to curb the spread of the dangerous infection called “problem gambling”. The highly-condemned machines are believed to be powering the problem and the easy access to them do not need to help the authorities to fight gambling-related issues.

To deal with the problem politicians in Saipan have decided to rewrite the laws and introduce a new zoning law that prohibits new poker machine clubs from opening up with 200 feet of schools, parks, churches playgrounds and Laundromats. As for the existing poker machines clubs, the lawmakers decided that such facilities need to relocate their operations to designated areas. The deadline for the poker clubs to move was 25th October 2017. The law came into effect in 2013 and operators had 4 years to organize their relocation.

The Board Set to Discuss the Operators’ Request in February

The law also states that operators, who fail to meet the deadline will need to pay a hefty fine of $1,000 per day. Zoning Board chairman Diego Blanco announced that 14 of the poker clubs that are not within the approved areas failed to meet the deadline. He added that the operators are asking for an extension of the deadline as they had certain difficulties in finding a place within the permitted areas.

The problem stems from the fact that the law prohibits two poker rooms to be next to each other. At a recent meeting, Blanco did not take any actions related to the operators’ application, but he announced that the board is to convene on 21st February to take a decision.

Lawyer Robert Torres who represented Winnerlife Inc. and Dan B. Choi, which operates SH II Poker, stated that the law violates the operators’ property interests, whose licenses are still valid. Rep. Even though most of the operators were not enthusiastic about the idea to relocate their business operations, they expressed readiness to comply with the law.

John Paul Sablan, the chairman of Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation threw his support behind the operators’ request for an extension. He announced that the poker outlets vastly contributed to the economic growth of Saipan and their request should be approved.