Prop 'A' supporter speaks out - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Prop 'A' supporter speaks out

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - After choosing to remain silent for months, the man who claims to be behind the for-profit bingo initiative is now answering some questions about the measure that will be proposed to voters in just a few weeks. While Guam Japan Friendship Village may be willing to talk about their proposal now, opponents contend it's too little, too late. 

After being criticized about not being forthcoming to the people of Guam about who they are and disclosing more specific details about their plans to open up for profit bingo, Guam Japan Friendship Village's Takami Hisamoto responded to some of KUAM News' questions about the initiative. 

Hisamoto, who is expected to come to Guam this week, says he is the only person guiding the Guam Japan Friendship Village project, explaining that there isn't a board of directors and that he is working with accountants and an attorney to decide how to structure the enterprise.  He says he intends to assemble a team of experienced for-profit bingo managers to operate the project and create a popular and attractive bingo parlor that visitors to Guam will be anxious to visit. 

When asked to respond to claims that the Guam Japan Friendship Village will be a monopoly, Hisamoto responded saying it will have no impact on non-profit bingo operations currently operating on the island.  He denied it would be a monopoly saying, "That is all nonsense from our detractors on the island, mainly wealthy interests who are protected from Guam's current economic decline. (The non-profit organizations) are important institutions that are helpful to villagers in their communities and are very good for Guam."

Hisamoto said his project would be targeted for tourists and not aimed at competing with or attracting residents away from any non-profit bingo facility. When asked about bridge capital's participation in the venture, Hisamoto maintains that the company's involvement is based entirely upon the long-term lease it holds on the former Guam Greyhound property.  He did admit that it was in Bridge Capital's interest to help him secure voter approval so the project could go forward.  Bridge capital is owned by John Baldwin and Sean Scott who have been behind previous failed gambling initiatives on the island.  Hisamoto believes that "for-profit bingo is a vastly different enterprise, one that Guam has, in non-profit settings, embraced for many years" and he believes it will become an attraction for visitors that will be beneficial to him as an investor and to the government agencies that would purportedly receive contributions from revenues.

He didn't directly answer our questions about the types of electronic bingo machines that he intends on using or whether the facility would be primarily electronic machines, Hisamoto said they are exploring the types of bingo facilities that might work best in this setting. "I neither expect nor wish to make significant financial decisions until the voters have authorized GJFV to go forward. There will be plenty of time after that for good decision-making by appropriate regulatory authorities and those who will be helping GJFV develop its final operational plans.

While opponents of Prop 'A' have said that the initiative language allows for Guam Japan Friendship Village to open up bingo slots before the government establishes rules and regulations, Hisamoto says, " It would be ill advised for anyone to start up a business like this before rules and regulations are known and in place."

But the Committee to Keep Guam Good isn't buying it.  Attorney Jay Arriola says this last ditch effort at the 11th hour and campaigning raises more questions than answers, saying, "Nor do they provide any info of who their investors are, and what their business plan is for this."

"We're not hearing anything about the financial backing of this project and who from the outside is coming in to do this."

Arriola says Hisamoto's response to KUAM News about exploring bingo facilities is disconcerting, saying the Committee to Keep Guam Good believes Prop 'A' is just a blatant attempt to bring in bingo casinos. He said, "Whatever you want to call it. Under his own admission it's not your typical bingo you have in the senior citizens centers and the non profits have going on now. It includes slot machines. He doesn't want to answer that one basic question does this include bingo slots and bingo casinos?"

Arriola added that the Committee to Keep Guam Good is not a bunch of wealthy islanders. as members are not being compensated, but merely those who want to keep Guam good.

Hisamoto meanwhile hopes voters will give it a gamble adding if Prop 'A' passes and for profit bingo is established on Guam, he isn't inclined to sell the business if the measure passes, saying he prefers to support it, maintain its success and enjoy the profits of a long term investment.

Meanwhile, it appears the Committee to Keep Guam Good and the Guam Japan Friendship Village will be busy this week campaigning.  The committee's Jackie Marati will be the guest speaker at tomorrow's Rotary meeting and at the first village meeting tomorrow night at the Yigo Gymnasium at 6:30pm.  The Guam Japan Friendship Village recently wrote to island mayors requesting permission to hold a town meeting regarding the bingo initiative so that special guests could answer any questions or concerns. 

They did not confirm attendance at Tuesday night's Yigo mayors meeting. Both sides however have confirmed to be in attendance at this Friday's Rotary meeting to discuss their positions.

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