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Northern Mariana Islands Gambling

Marianas Island Gambling Information

By Reno Rollins

Officially known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, they are comprised of 15 islands between Hawaii and the Philippines. The combined land area of the islands is 179 square miles, with the total population being just over 80,000. The President of the United States is considered the head of state, as the islands have entered into a union with the U.S.

The female to male sex ratio is the highest in the world. For every 76 men, there are 100 women. This is largely due to the fact that many female foreign workers live on the islands in order to work in the garment industry.

The following are part of the Northern Mariana Islands:

Northern Islands

- Farallon de Pajaros
- Maug Islands
- Asuncion
- Agrihan
- Pagan
- Alamagan
- Guguan
- Zealandia Bank
- Sarigan
- Anatahan
- Farallon de Medinilla

Southern Islands

- Saipan
- Tinian
- Aguijan
- Rota

The northern islands have been largely evacuated due to volcanic threats. Humans still live on Agrihan, Pagan and Alamagan. The only permanently populated islands are Tinian, Rota and Saipan.

The first exploration of the island was led by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. He claimed the islands for Spain. In 1668, the islands were named by Padre Diego Luis de Sanvitores as Las Marianas. The name was meant as a tribute to Mariana of Austria, the widow of King Philip IV of Spain.

After the Spanish-American War, the Northern Mariana Islands were sold to Germany. During World War One, the islands were invaded by the Japanese after they declared war on Germany. During Japanese occupation, sugar cane became the main crop on the islands.

Near the end of World War II, American forces captured the islands. In the Battle of Saipan, 71,000 American troops landed, with 2,949 being killed. It was the most costly battle in terms of U.S. casualties during the Pacific War.

On the island of Tinian, 389 American forces were killed, while over 8,000 Japanese soldiers perished. Tinian would later become the take off point for the Enola Gay, the plane which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Afterwards, the islands were administered by the United States. In the 1970s, the citizens of the islands decided against seeking independence. Instead, they began negotiating for territorial status in 1972. A commonwealth with the U.S. was approved in 1975. In 1978, a new government and constitution were put into effect.

The majority of the citizens are ethnic Asians (56.3%). Pacific Islanders make up the other sizable group (36.3%). 1.8% of the citizens are Caucasian.

The islands rely heavily on tourism, especially from the Japanese. Tourism has dwindled in recent years, however, with a 15% decline in 2006 alone.

While it is not sizable, production of coconuts, cattle, tapioca, breadfruit, tomatoes and melons exist.

Northern Mariana Islands Gambling Laws

Laws on gambling differ from island to island in the Northern Mariana chain. In most cases, gambling is illegal, but that has recently changed on a few of the more populated islands. The island of Tinian, for example, has had a casino in operation since 1995 (the Tinian Gaming Control Commission can issue up to five casino licenses at a time).

In 1989, Tinian voters approved the legalization of gambling, with the first casino opening on the island in 1995. This casino is no longer in operation, but another one also opened in 1998.

In January of 2007, Northern Islands Mayor Valentin Taisakan expressed support for legalizing casino gambling on the island of Saipan.

The same month, a bill was introduced which would establish casino gambling in the First Senatorial District of the island of Rota. It would also establish the Rota Casino Gaming Commission. To pass, it only needed the Legislature’s approval and a signature from the governor. Previously, an initiative to legalize gambling in Rota was placed on the 2003 ballot, but there was not enough popular support from the people.

In March of 2007, Tinian Mayor Jose San Nicolas gave his support to a Korean-based investor looking to start a casino project on the island of Tinian.

In November of 2007, Saipan citizens were asked to vote on a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos on the island. They overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.

In December of 2007, the House of Representatives in the Northern Marianas passed a bill to legalize various forms of gambling on the island of Saipan. Specifically, it would exempt Texas Hold’em poker, blackjack, baccarat and video lottery terminals from the island’s gambling prohibition. The Lower House, while approving the bill, added an amendment requiring a portion of gaming fees to be used for a senior food meal nutrition program.

This caused the casino being built on Tinian to be put on hold. It’s groundbreaking ceremony had been scheduled for December 28th, 2007. The only person to vote against the bill was Tinian Rep. Edwin Aldan.

In January of 2008, a bill which would appropriate $500,000 for the Rota casino industry barely passed. It needed 14 votes from the House but only received 12. Three members abstained from voting, but they changed their vote to the affirmative after being urged by House Speaker Oscar M. Babauta.

In February of 2008, Sen. Jude Hofschneider of Tinian stated that his island needed more casinos and hotels to boost the economy and reduce residential dependence on the government. As of this writing, two groups of international investors are financing construction on casinos.

It was also recently reported that four prospective investors are eyeing the island of Rota for future casinos.

Casinos in the Northern Marianas Islands

At the moment, there is only one casino operational in the Northern Mariana Islands. It was licensed on March 11th of 1996 and opened on April 25th, 1998.

- Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino (One Broadway, Tinian MP 96952, Northern Mariana Islands) Open 24 hours a day, this casino has 250 gaming machines and 37 table and poker games (Baccarat, Blackjack, Craps, Mini-Baccarat, Poker, Roulette and Sic Bo). There is also a 402-room hotel and six restaurants. For more information, you may call (670) 328-2233 or visit their website at www.tinian-dynasty.com.

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