CNMI Could Soon Be Legalising Online Gambling

April 11, 2019 by Ella McDonald

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana IslandsA lot of people might not even be aware of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) which is located in the Pacific Ocean.

However, high stake gamblers have made it a point to visit Saipan – the largest island in CNMI as its popularity increased when Hong Kong based Imperial Pacific began construction on its Imperial Pacific Resort and Casino.

CNMI which is part of the US Commonwealth started getting more attention when a temporary Imperial Pacific Casino was opened a few years ago and it became a popular hangout for VIP gamblers.

The government is now considering a bill that will legalize online gambling and further boost tourism and revenue numbers on the islands. House Bill 21-31 has already gained approval as the House Committee voted in favour with a 3-1 vote and the bill will now move to the House of Representatives where it will be debated and then voted upon.

Should the House of Representatives decide to pass the bill, then online gambling will be made legal across the CNMI. The Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) will be in charge of issuing iGaming licenses and regulating the industry.

Money Laundering Concerns Must Be Addressed

There will always be concerns when it comes to legalizing casinos and online gambling. However, this is even more so for the CNMI as there have been allegations in the past that VIP gamblers were turning up at the Saipan Casino and laundering money because gaming regulations and anti-money laundering procedures were not very stringent.

Juan Sablan, Chairman for the CCC and Charlie Atalig who is the Executive Director of the CCC have asked CNMI legislators to carefully review the bill, discuss its pros and cons before making a final decision on the matter.

In a joint statement, Sablan and Atalig said

The commission’s main concerns include issues of money laundering and problem gambling. With proper regulation, these issues can be addressed and mitigated, but this can only occur after study and the development of best practices. These best practices may not yet be in place

CCC has suggested that any operator who wants an iGaming license to operate in the CNMI will have to obtain a business license, have a physical establishment in the CNMI and be affiliate with a US bank or a CNMI bank.

These protocols were suggested in order to ensure that there is less risk for money laundering to take place and also to make it easier to complete the tax auditing process and to complete collections