Adelup legal counsel offers facts about Bill 19 - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Adelup legal counsel offers facts about Bill 19

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo has more information to review on Bill 19, as not only is he going over your comments on his Facebook page about the controversial measure, but now has the legal opinion of his legal counsel of the facts and findings of the bill.  

Since asking the people of Guam for their input on Bill 19 via Facebook, Governor Calvo has received dozens of comments - many of which ask for the measure to be vetoed. "I think it's important not only asking for the opinions of the public on why they want it vetoed or not, but why," he said.

At the same time, Calvo says he also wanted to get the facts on Bill 19 from his legal team because of all the confusion on what Bill 19 does and does not do. "If you have folks in one hand that are anti-gambling saying they want it vetoed, then you have folks who are pro-gambling or pro-gaming and they're telling you that they want it vetoed, then obviously there's some confusion," he said.

Calvo says the measure is less a gambling bill but more a taxing bill. So what does it do? According to legal counsel Sandra Miller, Bill 19 taxes current existing non-profit bingo, lottery, cockfighting, carnival gaming, pinball, kiddie rides, coin-operated children's video games, video horse/greyhound racing and "symbolic amusement devices."- all of which are currently legal and operating on Guam. It further uses the extra taxes to fund sports facilities and activities throughout the villages, to operate urgent care activities at Guam Memorial Hospital and to pay for GMH operations and debts.

"And as far as I'm concerned, as long as we weigh the benefits, weigh the costs and then from there a determination will be made," he said.

As for what the bill does not do - Calvo's legal counsel determined that Bill 19 does not legalize casino gambling, poker machines or slot machines. It does not do away with current non-profit bingo, lottery, cockfighting or other activities already deemed legal and operating on Guam. And while the bill purports to have a 'sunset provision,' the governor's office notes this provision was only contingent upon an appendix that was not attached.

Calvo says he hopes this legal summary will help clear up any confusion. "Obviously, this has been an issue that has brought a lot of input and a lot of emotions from the public, but in the end what I'm hopeful for that the public will understand that whatever decision is rendered, it will be to the best interest of our hospital, which is paramount and the best interest of the people of Guam," he said.

Other facts about Bill 19 - it creates a limited gaming tax fund by taxing 4% on gross receipts from limited gaming activities authorized pursuant to statute. It further creates the GMHA Healthcare Trust and Development Fund, which is financed through licensing fees, Business Privilege Tax and income taxes from companies involved in gaming under the gaming rules and regs such as Liberty, Symbolix and Match Play gaming devices. While the attorney general has disagreed with this provision, legal counsel reiterates that only those gaming devices registered prior to August 1, 2001 are allowed to be licensed. The GMHA fund is further funded by a special 4% assessment fee on income from gaming devices.

Governor Calvo has until July 8 to take action on the measure.

Keep Guam Good's Jay Arriola meanwhile tells KUAM that he believes the governor's legal counsel opinion is flawed adding there's room to argue if it's wrong or right. He adds the legal summary does not answer the question as to whether or not the current gaming machines that are being licensed and regulated by Rev & Tax are in fact slot machines and gambling machines. He says the summary significantly leaves open the questions on the sunset provision and what it ultimately means for gaming on Guam.

The Attorney General's Office also responds saying that the notion that the bill is more a tax bill and does nothing about gambling is not entirely true. They add the summary fails to state that Bill 19 attempts to legalize current illegal electronic gaming devices and continues to fail to state that Bill 19 references gaming rules and regs that the AG is currently challenging in court.

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