Legalization of bingo initiative filed
by Nick Delgado
Guam - Island residents could see an initiative on the November general election ballot as an act to legalize bingo was filed with the Guam Election Commission on Friday.
Guam law currently only allows bingo to be operated by non-profit organizations - but Japanese investors are looking to utilize the former Guam Greyhound facility to run a for-profit bingo operation that they say will not only attract more tourists to the island, but provide much needed revenue for the island's healthcare, public safety and education. The Legalization of Bingo Act Initiative was filed with the GEC this morning.
Guam-Japan Friendship Village's Takami Hisamoto told KUAM News, "Tourism is a large contributor to the economy on the island of Guam. A large percentage of these tourists come from Japan, Korea and China and many other parts of Asia. They are always looking for more things to do while here in Guam. Bingo entertainment for many people, residents and tourists alike."
Hisamoto says the Guam-Japan Friendship Village is made up of Japanese investors who want to revitalize and legalize bingo only at the former Guam Greyhound facility in Tamuning, owned by John Baldwin, who has been behind previous failed gambling initiatives on Guam. The group filed articles of incorporation with the Department of Revenue & taxation on Thursday.
While the names of the individuals backing the company were not included in the filed documents, Attorney Ron Moroni has been appointed as their registered agent. Guam-Japan Friendship Village's Julie De Torre said, "We are now gong to offer you the opportunity to take this to a new and exciting level. We will be asking for your help to bring bingo and electronic bingo to the park. We are still in the beginning stages so details will be forthcoming."
But because they're just starting up, De Torre declined to take any questions about the initiative at this time. According to the initiative that was filed with the commission, that lists greyhound property manager Annette Cruz as the proponent, if approved by island voters, bingo and electronic bingo would only be allowed at the Guam Greyhound Park. Cruz was the proponent behind previous failed initiatives presented to island voters like the Better Jobs for Guam Act that sought to allow casino gambling solely at the Greyhound Park.
Under the proposal currently before the GEC, no one under the age of 21 would be allowed to play bingo at the facility that would pay 20% on the Business Privilege Tax on all of its gross income. That money would be deposited into the Guam Bingo Fund and would be distributed to help the government.
The proposal additionally outlines that 30% would benefit and assist residents in obtaining healthcare, including prescription drugs and medicines to be administered by the Guam Memorial Hospital's Board of Trustees. 30% would benefit the public schools with educational content, improvements to physical conditions and security to be administered by the Guam Education Board.
And lastly, 30% would help enhance public safety by funding recruitment, training and hiring of personnel as well as to purchase supplies and equipment for the Guam Police and Fire Departments. The remaining 10% would be given to Rev & Tax to pay for expenses incurred to perform its obligations.
If passed by island voters, Rev & Tax would have 90 days to promulgate rules and regulations for the operation of the bingo facility. For now, the GEC has given the initiative to its legal counsel to review.
GEC executive director Maria Pangelinan said her agency, "has ten days from submission to determine if it embraces, if everything is related."
Should the GEC's legal counsel find that the initiative does not contain unrelated subjects, the attorney will then provide an approved summary of the legalization of bingo summary to the commission and the proponents for them to begin collecting the necessary number of signatures required to be placed on the November general election ballot.
While the measure awaits review, Guam Greyhound will be offering bingo at its Tamuning facility next month. Cruz, who is property manager, says they recently signed a lease with a Korean company to operate bingo games there.