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Gaming machine arguments presented to Supreme Court

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 by Krystal Paco

Guam - Supreme Court justices hear oral arguments relative to a lawsuit on the legality of gaming machines.

It's the million-dollar question: "So I guess the question of fact comes in, are those devices currently in these establishments, gambling devices?"

It was exactly one year ago the trial court dismissed the lawsuit filed by then-attorney general Leonardo Rapadas against former client, the Department of Revenue & Taxation on the legality of amusement devices. Now under the leadership of newly elected AG Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson the debate continued this morning before supreme court justices.

Assistant AG Marianne Woloschuk said, "This is new and different litigation. This is not the same as cases that came before. This is a declaratory judgment case. This is not a writ case where were seeking a writ one way or another to issue licenses or revoke them."

Woloschuk reminds the court that the AG's Office was loud and clear on its opinion of these amusement devices and did so twice in letters addressed to DRT director John Camacho.

Although Camacho stated he would stop issuing the licenses after the first letter, a press release from the Governor's Office indicated the regulations were in fact valid. As a result, Camacho's actions to follow spoke louder than words.

"Instead of responding to that letter, the DRT director issued those licenses. The DRT director showed us what he thought in response. He didn't have to put it in writing because he told us by his action," said Woloschuk.

But as Governor Eddie Calvo's legal counsel Sandra Miller argues, the AG's Office doesn't decide the legality. So who does? "It is not for DRT or the governor of Guam to make a determination as to whether the machine is illegal gambling device or not. Illegality is up to the court to decide," she claimed. "The director of Rev & Tax is sort of against the wall. What's he supposed to do? Is he the judge? Is he supposed to say this is illegal this is not illegal. Are we supposed to just take the AG's word for it."

Rather than argue the legality of these machines, Miller argues the AG's Office is attacking the licenses rather than acting on it. "It's also the attorney general's job that if the attorney general believes a machine is illegal to invoke the criminal statutes on forfeiture and that has also never been done. If these machines are so illegal, why hasn't any action been taken to revoke them?" she asked.

But the debate doesn't stop there. Whether there lies a conflict of interest for the AG's Office has also been unsettled. "The Government of Guam defendants were saying that they wanted new counsel appointed for them. The AG was never against that. The problem was, who was going to pay for it? We believe that if you want new counsel, the party who wants new counsel is the one who should be paying for it, not the Attorney General's Office," Woloschuk said.

The matter was taken under advisement.
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