Sunday, September 16, 2007

Casinos, not poker rooms, MV 3


In choosing a vacation location it only seems logical to go somewhere that offers something unavailable at home. Fortunately, the CNMI has something generally unavailable in Japan, Korea, Russia, China and elsewhere: warm weather, blue waters, first class golf and some very good scuba diving. We also have a few nice hotels, decent though hardly great restaurants and weak shopping -- though why anyone from a shopping Mecca like Tokyo wants to go shopping on vacation here eludes me. As the economic crisis drags on, many are looking to a casino as the lifeline, and the legality of one will be up for a vote in November. While a casino won't be a panacea to all the island's financial problems, it is more than sensible to establish casino gambling here in Saipan and actually follow through this time on a focused marketing campaign based on golf, water sports and casino gaming in a relaxed and convenient environment.

There are two main counterarguments I have heard to casino gambling; the negative impact a Saipan casino would have on the Tinian Dynasty, and the moralizing argument that there will be more local gambling addiction. Neither of these arguments is convincing.

The CNMI has gambling already via the Tinian Dynasty, and I'm sure Tinian folks fear a Saipan casino might take away from their fragile economy. The fact that the casino is in Tinian and not Saipan, the main tourist destination, is puzzling at best. Tinian and the Dynasty is hardly a resort location with the amenities typical to such a location. There aren't many restaurants or other entertainment options there, and it is somewhat difficult to get to. I can't imagine many people come to the Marianas expressly to gamble at the Tinian Dynasty, but they very well could and would come for a focused marketing campaign based on golf, diving and gambling. It helps to have something to do at night.

I can understand the concern of Tinian folks, but it is misdirected. A casino would draw more tourists to the Mariana Islands. It is not uncommon for people to visit more than one casino, so it doesn't seem unreasonable that a Saipan casino would bring more, not less, visitors to Tinian and the Tinian Dynasty. Beyond that, what is to stop Guam from establishing a casino that would be a "drag" on Tinian by the same logic? This region is unlikely to replace Macau as the gaming destination of Asia, but people like casinos and another tourist lure is hardly a bad thing. A rising tide lifts all boats and holding back competition is never a path to success.

The second counterargument is even worse, the moralizing argument, the idea we'll all become a bunch of degenerate gamblers. My understanding is that certain influential clergy members discouraged casino gambling when this issue came up previously, and that is the reason we don't have gaming to date. This isn't Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, and it isn't shocking. Gambling exists in the open in Saipan and it largely takes place in the dark, dingy poker rooms that lack the dignity of a Bangkok sex show, so the moralizing argument is absurd given that gambling in these poker rooms is the type that has wrecked more homes than Angelina Jolie.

No cash rich, high rolling tourist is ever going to be walking into any of these poker rooms that have all the charm of a trauma ward in Darfur and start plunking down their hard earned cash needed to infuse this dead economy. Casino resorts are a place for shows, restaurants, lights and "over the top" Vegas glitz. They need that type of atmosphere or they revert to the dark, seedy, scarcely populated, smoky hellish pits we have now that attract the wrong type of gamblers -- those who least can afford it.

I came to know this island as a tourist. Given a lot of time, I would probably have gone to a place like Koh Samui, Boracay or Bali -- cheaper and more exotic. Not all vacations are long -- especially if you work in a country with long hours and short vacations like Seoul or Tokyo. To get to those places requires a flight to Bangkok or Manila and then a connecting flight to your resort. A connection going in and out is ridiculous on a short trip, which is why I came here and why a lot of people come here, at least until the lack of flights made it so difficult. This place needs to aim for the shorter term tourists who want to be on the golf course or on the beach immediately, not waiting in a terminal annoyed after ten shoe checks and parched because of the insidious threat of water. Seoul and Tokyo don't have the gorgeous golf courses, beaches or diving we have, and the casinos in Seoul don't allow Korean citizens. It is a "foreigner" only activity over there, which makes sense. Naturally we do the opposite, offer the vile poker rooms for our majority impoverished population that prey on the desperate and financially unstable.
There is little doubt that a seven member gambling commission would be chock full of political cronies doing the bidding of whomever lines their pockets best. This is not just the CNMI way, this is the way of the world in 2007. Read up on the corporate giveaways in Iraq to get a full understanding. These commissioners will come up with some clever public relations campaign about the casino as a way toward scholarships or assistance to the poor for their power bills, which they've done previously. That stuff will of course be all BS, it's always about a few people getting rich, but times are so dire that this step of a casino needs to be taken, even with the dark shadow of a government that can't maintain a diesel engine in the power plant, can't keep blood in the hospital and I'm pretty sure can't make ice cubes even if spotted water, a tray and a freezer.


Editor's Note: Bruce Bateman and I ended up writing on the same topic this week. No, there wasn't any coordination. I'm happy with this one.

41 comments:

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

...and concerns about even more organized crime, drugs, and prostitution are invalid?

Jeff said...

I think the market is saturated with prostitution already, and I don't think a casino necessarily brings more of any of those things.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Then I suggest you watch Casino, starring Robert Deniro and Sharon Stone. Or Bugsy starring Warren Beaty.

...and people call Las Vegas Sin City for a reason.

Gambling, drugs, prostitution, and organized crime go hand in hand wherever it occurs.

Jeff said...

And set in the 30s and 60s.

So is Tinian a hotbed for drugs, prostitution and organized crime, and if so, why do we allow a casino there?

Do the poker rooms not attract those things?

Live music attracts drugs, we don't ban that.

Sailors on shore leave attract prostitutes, and we allow the military here.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

The Tinian Dynasty launders money for Communist China's Red Army. Tinian is a perfect location for them because their is no government oversite.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

...just ask Dengre.

saipanboonieman said...

^ i spoke to mr. guerrero and mr. reyes (two of the main proponents for the casino plan), and asked what would be done to eliminate the poker arcades that plague our island. i suggested that they write into the initiative a 1yr phase-out for them, but was told that they could not put that in. but they assured me that they would pursue that once/if the casino initiative passes. they also stated that they wanted to keep "locals" out of the casinos to help cut down on the gambling problems here. <= Yeah right!!!! good luck getting any of those proposals to go through!

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Here you go:

http://saipancasinoact.blogspot.com/2007/09/synopsis-of-saipan-casino-initiative.html

bradinthesand said...

are NMD's worse than WMD's?

Jeff said...

I supported the idea of a casino, not necessarily the one on the ballot.

saipanboonieman said...

i just wonder, when are we going to draw the line as to the kind of community we want to live in? sure, the casino initiative MAY bring badly needed revenue to the islands, but so would legalizing prostitution(neveda allows it)and legalizing/charging for certain drugs for public use (some european contry does it, i think denmark?).

Jeff said...

We live in a community already with gambling every ten feet, only it's the type that no tourist would spend a dime on. 28 states in the mainland have casinos. 28 states don't allow drugs and prostitution.

Are connected locals going to make money off this thing, of course. I said as much. Connected locals get 155,000 to throw around for getting more votes in our near student council elections. Tell me something new.

saipanboonieman said...

it's precisely because "we live in a community already with gambling every ten feet" that we should be weary of adding yet another venue for gambling. we've all heard of the armed robberies(?), child neglect cases, and economic drain attributed to gambling on our islands. how will having casinos help address these issues?

And although you make an almost convincing argument on the ability to attract customers, I am positive Macau's target markets have direct flights to their city, negating that convenience aspect. Besides,do we seriously think our "Mickey-Mouse" casino can compete with Macau's BILLION dollar casino industry?

Forget about the possibility of having people in charge who would know what they're doing! you admitted so much yourself. For crying out loud! Even one of the main advocates for casinos, Froilan Tenorio, is under investigation for illegally operating a casino! I believe that sort of arrogance should be a clear red-flag to everyone!

lil_hammerhead said...

It's that "follow through" you mentioned that I worry about. There is a history here of no proper "follow through". The casino or casinos will open, officials will take their cut, no real efforts promotion-wise will be made, no professional oversight of casino operations will be done, etc.

saipanboonieman said...

Im not trying to be a d*ck or anything, but i just dont agree that a casino industry is the way we should go.

and there really isn't much new to tell you about this issue. im sure youve done your own research into the issue. the pros and cons are already well established.

Jeff said...

The difference is that casinos attract tourists and people with money on vacation. The poker rooms attract resident degenerates by their pure seediness.

My basic point is that if you had something like the Dynasty here, it would be one more tourist draw. It isn't a cure all, and chances are we'll find a way to screw it up, we do have the reverse midas touch here, but what choice do we have, all jump off suicide cliff.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I prefer to call it the Bush touch. Everything he touches turns to shit.

I wrote a short post about this on my blog. I agree with the boonieman.

And I think casinos have their place on Saipan, just not the way it is written in this legislation...and not envisioned as the savior of the CNMI economy.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

...and has someone told you that your blog looks terrible in Firefox? Check out the bottom part.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Your counter hasn't registered a single visitor using firefox. Fix the html and your number of hits should skyrocket.

I'm sure a lot of people are reading your blog using firefox. About 20% of my readers use firefox. Your counter is potentially missing 20% of your readers.

Jeff said...

Only radical treehuggers use firefox. I'm not Mr. HTML to state the case mildly.

Jeff said...

The only thing 20 percent more hits does is help my ego, which has never been unhealthy. I don't have the foggiest idea how to do that, and I'm not likely to spend time learning, but if you want to help at the blogger meet up, I promise to go easy when the Red Sox give up the last 3.5 in their lead in the last two weeks.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

I was wondering why you've been sending me so much traffic. You've been sending between 10-20 hits my way every day for the last month. This explains why.

You may be getting more hits than me. We'll fix it on Wednesday and find out...or if I see you at Porky's tomorrow, we'll do it there.

Jeff said...

In my journalism career, the whole layout issue was always a thorn in my side. They always wanted me to be a bit involved in layout, and I never much gave a shit. I was always more interested in what was said, not how pretty it looked. I admit it matters, but it just isn't my scene. I'd like to totally revamp the look of this blog, but it just isn't my area.

34 Samantha said...

"...and I'm pretty sure can't make ice cubes even if spotted water, a tray and a freezer."

I love that line.

Pete said...

Yes, open the Casinos. More foreign workers would be recruited from all over asia to work on those places.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Yes we both wrote on the same topic, no collusion, that's just the hot topic. BTW, Jeff, like you I'm happy not just with the content, but with the style as well. You're getting your stride back. I'm sure we won't be agreeing often, but either way it's good to see your pen unlimber.

Next week we both write about nudibranch love fests at the grotto.

Casino Gaming: No, it's not panacea, but it's the best idea anyone has come up with yet to jump start this dying economic motor.

bradinthesand said...

love that idea. i also think we should only sell jeeps here. they're perfect for the island. what else do you need?

lil_hammerhead said...

Jeeps have the highest mpg fuel consumption and CO2 production of almost any other vehicle. I will try to locate the link on this and post it. I was shocked when I found this out. Jeep's and all being synonymous with the outdoors.

bradinthesand said...

how about jeeps that only operate on reed warblers and betel nut spit? we could have something here...

Marianas Eye said...

We should all be driving golf carts. Seriously, what's the hurry? Ban the cars, and then driving a golf cart on the roads would be safe. Line the streets with solar charges to plug into when parked.

And I'm not even a treehugger.

lil_hammerhead said...

Golf carts are good... but I've always dreamed of a Saipan where everyone road horses and mules. Wouldn't that be cool. A whole wild west meets the jungle kind of thing.

And we wouldn't even need the solar chargers...just fields of grass.

bradinthesand said...

...and they're growing plenty of that on tinian and rota now ;)

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Sun City (Arizona and Florida) communities are bigger than Saipan and many there use golf carts exclusively to get around.

I can see it now...golf carts with wings for the 'I wanna pretend to go fast' crowd. Souped up golf carts with blue lights and 'Police' emblazoned on the sides. Herman's delivering the bread in a Golf cart delivery van. Japanese tourists driving Hummers on the golf course.


NaNaNaNaNaNaNaaaaaaa.

lil_hammerhead said...

Brad, we used to have no shortage of grass here. Those were the days.

lil_hammerhead said...

Just make sure that police cars and ambulances aren't golf carts okay?

I'd still prefer the horses.

Jeff said...

It's nice to be a government lawyer hiding anonymously, casting aspersions and posting obnoxious comments about people, but I have the guts to say what I think and put my name to it. If you feel so strongly, you could write a counterargument in the newspaper, but that would require some guts and your name, so I guess we won't be seeing that from you.

Jeff said...

Offering some BS about me getting bribed is irresponsible, the kind of absurd charge typical to anonymous commentators. Those of us with the stones to put our names to what we say get annoyed at people like you because your cowardice allows you to say stuff about us while you hide in the shadows with your legal briefs.

We have gambling already -- everywhere, the seedy type, and I endorsed the idea of a casino for tourists. I didn't make an argument for this particular proposal. People can decide for themselves how to vote, or just count up the lawn signs and decide, or whatever method they choose.

Jeff said...

I don't mind a spirited debate at all. Angelo and I don't agree on this casino issue. He posted on his blog that I'm wrong, and here. That's fine. Brad and I have sniped on things. Jane and I have had our differences to state the case mildly. When anonymous posters make snide and obnoxious comments, they won't be appreciated, and if they are too snide and obnoxious, they won't be appearing here. It's an unfair fight and it is gutless. Always has been and always will be, that's why the anonymous stuff isn't accepted in courts, letter to the editor aren't anonymous in respectable newspapers. A person needs to be accountable for their statements.

Jeff said...

A casino is a tourist lure, and those tourists will be staying in hotels and eating in restaurants and shoppinging in stores, and diving with dive shops and so forth. A casino run right is the best option, but one I doubt is even possible with this government, or most any government, and any sales pitch put forth will be just that. Even assuming this is set up in the corrupt and racist manner they are trying to set it up with, it will still help those businesses above.

The Iraq War exists as a way to enrich connected corporations much more than any war on terror. How else can you cut taxes, and run up billions of debt without end and still pretend to be acting in the interests of the country? Can we expect this little place to be any better than the U.S. government, which has much larger stakes and much more scrutiny. That was the point of the line you quoted.

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/9635

Jeff said...

Counselor Plato,

You've distorted my position to the point of absurdity, and your response is too illiterate and ridiculous to post or waste my time on. I'm not giving you a forum here, so post it on your own blog. If anyone cares to see what this anonymous wingnut has to say, and I'm sure it will now be a bunch of attacks on me, go to his currently empty blog. I've had enough of him and most anonymous blowhards going forward. His purpose, like most of the anonymous crowd, is not debate but simply to aggravate, so I'm not arguing with these people or providing them a forum for their games. Let them build their own audience, which requires more effort. If absurd debates with anonymous sources attacking real bloggers are your thing, go to Middle Road. It won't be happening here.

Jeff said...

I don't have your comment. It was trashed like it deserves. Censorship means the government is stopping you from saying something. I'm not the government, and the first amendment doesn't mean I need to post your illiterate ravings here about how I support the war in Iraq when I'm already on record here against it. You can write whatever absurd bullshit you want on your blog. I'm not reading it, not responding to it and simply don't care. You're done here.