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Marshall Islands Gambling

Marshallese Gambling History

Gambling is illegal in the Marshall Islands, although this was not always the case.

In 1996, casinos were proposed as a way to increase tourism and stimulate the economy. There was a great deal of protest, and the bill to legalize casinos was even defeated in its first two readings. Still, it passed its final vote and effectively legalized gambling in the Marshall Islands.

Regulations were present in the bill to help tax and monitor slot machines. These regulations were not enforced, and the government saw little to no money from the endeavor.

New Gambling Laws in the Marshalls

Church groups and other anti-gambling elements prepared to try and reverse the law during a 1998 government session. They proposed two bills, the first of which (Bill 113) would repeal the prior bill. The second bill (Bill 114) would prohibit gambling of any kind (including bingo). The only exception would be school fundraising raffles.

Several members of the government were forced to withhold their votes, as they owned casinos on the island. Bill 113 passed with a vote of 17 to 7.

Bill 114, which would prohibit gambling, was even more contested. A motion was made to put off the vote until the next session, but the vote on this ended in a 13-13 tie. The Speaker of the House broke the tie and called for a final vote. Bill 114 passed 12 to 11.

By mid-August of 1998, all gaming rooms in the Marshall Islands had been closed.

Facts About the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Located in the Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands are located north of Nauru and Kiribati and east of the Federated States of Micronesia. The country is made up of 29 atolls and five islands. The Ratak Chain and Ralik Chain are the two most important groups of islands, and two-thirds of the population resides on either Ebeye or Majuro.

The first European to spot the islands was Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar in 1526. The first visit to the islands came when British Captain John Marshall landed in 1788. The islands were settled by a German trading company in 1885 and later conquered by the Japanese during World War I.

During World War II, the United States occupied the islands. From 1946 until 1958, the U.S. tested 66 nuclear weapons on various atolls in the Marshall Islands.. Health effects still linger from the tests.

The islands became self-governing in 1979. They were granted their sovereignty in 1986 as part of the Compact of Free Association. This compact allowed the U.S. to use a missile testing range on Kwajalein Atoll in exchange for aid and defense.

While coconuts, melons, breadfruit and tomatoes are produced on farms, financial aid from the U.S. government remains the driving force behind the economy. The tourism industry employs less than 10% of the labor force.

English is the official language of the islands, but the government conducts their business in the native tongue of Marshallese. Japanese can also be found in certain parts of the islands. The dominant religion is Christian, with most residents following the Protestant faith.

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