All bets are off: Liberation casino shut down - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

All bets are off: Liberation casino shut down

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - From the onset, it was controversial - the return of casino gambling to the Liberation Carnival after eight years. Not even four weeks into operations and it was shut down this afternoon by the Guam Police Department. Police and Rev & Tax officials closed the casino for illegal gambling but the operators contend it's all a big misunderstanding.

Lunchtime in Hagatna and approximately 50 patrons and workers were found inside the Liberation Carnival casino. But all bets were off when more than a dozen police officers swarmed the building responding to concerns raised by the Department of Revenue & Taxation of illegal gambling. Police Chief Fred Bordallo said, "She informed me that the director of revenue and taxation was going to come down here to verify the casino being open."

Bordallo confirms his officers found the casino to be operating illegally in violation of the hours set forth in a proclamation signed by Governor Eddie Calvo that officially made the hours of the casino to be 6am to 6pm on weekdays and 24 hours on the weekends. "My officers are taking down the information of all the people that were in there gambling to include documenting some of the cash that was in there during the gambling. And we've informed the business management that the casino is going to be closed down right now and they have to honor the governor's proclamation," he stated.

Nobody was arrested and patrons were allowed to leave the casino with whatever money they won today. Added the chief, "In this stage we have we're investigating and getting that information and we believe just from how we're hearing the information coming from mgmt there's no real criminal intent to have violated any of the laws right now. But just to be on the safe side we're taking a report and documenting it and a copy of it will be given to the AG's Office for their review."

Guma Mami won the bid for the casino that is being operated by Jason Rai and Su Guoquan. Guma Mami board chair Robert Hofmann says there were no bad intentions with the casino being open during the day. Instead Hofmann says the casino wasn't seeing the kind of returns they'd gambled on after their initial half a million dollar investment so last week the operators asked the liberation committee if they could open one baccarat table 24 hours a day - a request that made its way to the Governor's Office but has not been approved or denied.

"They were under the assumption that it was already done and I guess they're not very familiar with the steps of government here so the letter is currently there at Adelup awaiting a signature from the governor and approval from the governor to do this," said Hofmann.

Hofmann says the operators didn't think they were doing anything wrong since they were open yesterday as well and off-duty police officers hired as security didn't stop them from opening up shop during the day. "Yesterday they were open and nobody bothered them or said anything and the off duty officers who do work there as well were the same people that came in during the raid. They're familiar with the place and the management so they were very cooperative when they did come in there," he noted.

"They are there 24 hours, even when the casino is closed. They are there protecting the facility, the equipment and making sure everything stays running."

The police department meanwhile is also conducting its own inquiry into whether any of its officers will be held responsible for allowing the illegal gambling as there are several who work at the casino during their off time as a secondary job. The casino meanwhile will be open during the regular, approved hours tonight.

Governor's Deputy Press Secretary Phill Leon Guerrero says the governor was prepared to sign the request to extend the hours of the casino as requested by the Mayors Council. However in light of the casino operator's violations of the conditions contained in the original permit, the governor assessed a $10,000 fine that the operator must pay to the Treasurer of Guam tomorrow.

Leon Guerrero added that with the support of the mayors, the governor is withholding the application for the extension indefinitely and warns that any additional violations will result in the revocation of the casino permit.

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