by Krystal Paco
Guam - As the Guam Election Commission prepares to present supporting and opposing views of the for-profit bingo initiative that will be on the Decision 2012 General Election ballot to the public, the Mayors Council of Guam is reviewing the initiative and a draft resolution that would oppose Prop "A" because of the impact it could have on non-profit bingo around the island.
"This is part of our recreation, so we gonna miss it [sic]. This is the only way we can enjoy more at the center," proclaimed Lydia Nostratis. She and dozens of others enjoy playing bingo on a daily basis at the Sinajana Senior Center. It's a favorite pastime that helps to pass their day. The seniors here are even playing to raise money, as Nostratis explained, "We gonna raise funds to buy our own board because we borrow the board of the mayor. So we got one game after lunch, $3 a card, so we get that all for savings to buy the board the bingo board."
But island man'amko are growing concerned that they won't be able to play bingo anymore as mayors are learning more about the for-profit bingo initiative brought forth by Guam Japan Friendship Village. Sinajana mayor-elect Robert Hofmann told KUAM News, "There were some concerns that did highlight that should this initiative pass that we will not have bingo at our man'amko centers anymore nor can we host the Liberation Day bingo."
Hofmann learned of this possibility in his capacity as a member of the Committee to Keep Guam Good, which has recently reactivated and will be pushing out a campaign in an effort to defeat Prop "A", as it previously did with past gambling initiatives.
Dededo mayor Melissa Savares is concerned that passage of the for-profit bingo means non-profits will lose out big. "You hear bingo initiative over at the Greyhound Park and stuff the problem is it would shut everything all the other bingos around throughout the island," she said, with Hofman adding, "Pangisinan, Plumeria, GNOC, Royal Orchid, everything else."
Hofman also said, "It does say there that we're not going to restrict, but however should Merizo want to have their own, they have to go through the same process of getting the initiative put on the ballot for the people of Guam should Merizo have bingo.:
The act to legalize bingo specifically states that the act does not authorize bingo anywhere other than the former Guam Greyhound facility, but it doesn't prohibit the passage of any future initiatives for bingo or any legislative action that allows bingo at other locations. The initiative, however, also states that the measure does not affect any other existing law and 9GCA provides for non-profit bingo. The Guam Election Commission's legal counsel wouldn't render an interpretation today, saying the 500-word summary is still under review by the agency's board of directors.
Whatever the interpretation, mayors today expressed concerns with the initiative. Yona mayor Pedo Terlaje said, "That sounds to be like a monopoly - it is - and every time we have something like that it's gonna break us. We should go out with some type of resolution."
Merizo mayor Ernest Chargualaf expressed concerns as his village has held bingo for medical fundraisers, saying, "I'm trying to protect our residents for non-profit to get them to go get their treatment as opposed to we're gonna have bingo and make a profit that's what it means. Non-profit means is for a cause. When you look at it, these guys are all for the money, but can we protect our bingo?"
While Hofmann drafted a resolution opposing the initiative, stating that it will be a monopoly only to benefit the owners of the former Guam Greyhound and will drain funds away from man'amko activities and effectively legalize casino gambling by allowing bingo slot machines, he stated, "It pretty much says no licenses should be issued by Rev & Tax for any bingo other than what was done for them. It says however we don't prohibit any company or non-profit or group from doing the same thing, getting a license if they go through the same procedure they went through."
But Yigo mayor Robert Lizama didn't want to rush into voting on the draft resolution today. "This is the first I've seen this and already we're reacting trying to shut down an initiative before we even know what the initiative entails," he warned. "I don't like the monopoly part of it. I think we have until at least October to really make a sound decision and to be fair to our constituency."
Island mayors agreed to table a vote on the resolution until their meeting next after they've had more time to review the initiative and get an idea of how their constituents feel about it. Officials from Guam Japan Friendship Village have not returned calls for comment.
Meanwhile, September 22 is the deadline for groups to submit arguments for or against the initiative.