House approved bill to ease rules on Rota casino fees

Saipan – The House of Representatives passed legislation to remove a restriction on the use of funds collected from Rota casino licenses and fees. The bill, now awaiting Senate action, will authorize the Rota Casino Gaming Commission to utilize collected fees even though the casinos the paid the fees are not ready to open.

Under existing law, the commission is prohibited from using such funds. It is required to place the money in escrow or until three years have lapsed from the date the license was issued, whichever occurs first. Representative Victor Hocog, sponsor of the bill, has reportedly argued that this requirement was an unnecessary and unjustified burden.

The bill also proposes to amend the Rota Casino Act so that it would comply with the existing tax code, specifically relating to the gross revenue surtax and gambling revenue tax. Currently, the Rota Casino Act imposes a 10 % tax on gross gaming revenues, which is inconsistent with the CNMI’s existing tax law. If the bill is signed into law, Rota’s tax laws relating to casinos would be the same as Tinian’s.