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Island elderly upset that bingo may be a no-go

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by Jolene Toves

Guam - Island manamko feel they were dealt a bad hand with the passage of Bill 19, specifically an amendment proffered by Senator Michael San Nicolas that will ban all forms of gambling on Guam including cockfighting and bingo.

Annie Sablan is the vice president of the senior citizens group in Sinajana and said, "When they determined that if Sinajana senior citizens or any other centers the senators have to understand that seniors are different we are here we are a non-profit organization we don't have any money coming in to our center it's just a game of fun." Should Bill 19 be signed into law it would ban all forms of gambling once the Guam Memorial Hospital pays off its debt to vendors.

Senator San Nicolas on the floor said it was all or nothing and that's exactly what Sinajana Mayor Robert Hoffman believes revenues will be once gambling is stripped from the annual Liberation Carnival and other MCOG sponsored activities. He said, "The gaming part of the liberation and the raffle covers a lot of the expenses that the liberation festivities taken sponsors are there but they are not enough to cover really many of the improvements made at the carnival were because of the gaming that exists there."

Hoffman says village mayors were completely blindsided by the San Nicolas amendment.  It was in February, Senator Chris Duenas boasted about the revenues that would be generated from collecting taxes from limited gaming on Guam. Matter of fact the Mayors Council of Guam even went so far as passing a resolution in support of Bill 19 back in February.  "I was kind of shocked when I first heard about it I was at the legislature in the morning half of the session and was asking how does this affect the mayor's council, our senior citizen's operation liberation and we were kind of assured that this is not going to happen bill 19 is about the GNOC sports bingo and Bill 20 is about the gaming devices this is not your fight," he said.

A fight that island manamko like Amanda L.G. Santos feel they were weren't even given a chance to defend themselves.  "I wish we could talk to those senators and explain it to them our situation as manamko because they are not in their manamko their senior citizen years maybe they don't understand what going on here they should come and visit us," she said.

With the potential loss of funding for senior citizen's centers and the liberation festivities Mayor Hoffman suggests that the senators take over the planning of liberation to see how successful it will be without the funding generated by gaming. 

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