In less than a day we could find out if the casino will stick around at the Liberation Carnival. Lawmakers spent most of today talking about Bill 50, which would force the casino to close up shop for good.
Could all bets be officially off for the Liberation Casino? Senators moved quickly to bring a measure that would do just that on to session floor. “It’s here to show that the social ramification of gambling and the voice of the people of the people of Guam offset any revenue and remember year after year the people have voted no,” said Senator Telena Nelson, who introduced the controversial measure.
The debate then sparked between the mayor’s council and anti-gambling groups. “I asked how did this happen for so many years, how did we manage to turn a blind eye,” Senator Nelson said.
The issue dividing island leaders, as mayor’s continued to argue the activity is essential to covering the cost for the Liberation events. “No casino, no Liberation Day Carnival – individualism. You versus me. The amount of division that this has caused within our elected leaders, I am surprised,” she stated.
The Mayor’s council on Wednesday confirming either way they will celebrate. A response from the governor’s spokesperson today stated, “If senators decide to remove the casino operations from the carnival then I hope they also provide an alternative funding source to help the mayors.”
Several lawmakers expressed support for the measure and concern over gambling on the island. Senator Tom Ada said, “I think probably what’s putting the bitter taste in our mouth about casino gambling is how it has been exploited. First it started out just for the carnival then we found a way around that in conjunction with a village fiesta then we can do that and I kind of feel like man you are taking me for a ride.”
Senator Regine Biscoe Lee supports the bill, noting, “The carnival’s popularity and family friendly atmosphere has waned.”
Speaker BJ Cruz said, “I ask my colleagues please if not for me and not for the sponsor but as we did the other day listen to the voice of the people of Guam that in three separate referendums told us no to gambling.”
The discussion ending on an emotional note. Senator Nelson thanking her colleagues and others involved in pushing her bill forward. After today’s discussion, the measure has now been moved to the voting file, which means the next step – senators will decide whether the casino will remain.
Senators will begin voting tomorrow at 2pm. The bill will head to the Governor’s Office, if passed.