Commercial Bingo May Come to Island Paradise

Guam is a relatively small island in the Western Pacific ocean and is a US territory with a civilian government. The island was settled about 4,000 years ago and has a long history of being subject to European colonialism. Guam’s main industry is tourism and most of the tourists are from Japan. While most people would not associate Guam with bingo the game has generated controversy in this small Micronesian island paradise.

An initiative that will allow commercial for profit bingo will probably be on the ballot in this November’s elections. Recently Guam’s Election Commission’s staff has gone through thousands of signatures submitted to the commission to out the for profit bingo iniative on the ballot. The executive director of the Guam Election Commission Maria Pangelinan stated “At this point in time, I just got word from the staff that we have finished verifying the petitions.” In May the group behind the petitions, the Guam Japan Friendship Village, submitted petitions to legalize commercial bingo exclusively at the former Guam Greyhound racing facility. In recent years Greyhound racing has fallen out of favor due to animal abuse.

Pangelinan said that 4,713 signatures (10% of the number of registered voters at the time the petitions were submitted) have been verified by her staff. Now the signatures need to be certified by the commission before the imitative makes it onto November’s ballot. Pangelinan said the commission needs to take into account a timeline leading up to the General Election which includes legal counsel presenting a ballot title. Everything needs to be certified 90 days before the election and the commission must hear arguments for and against the initiative. Pangelinan told reporters “If there is more than one argument, the Commission with the assistance of the legal counsel picks the most strongest argument for and against I believe and then those arguments get put into a pamphlet and it gets mailed out to the voters.” In most US states and territories sample ballots must present both sides of an issue.

Pangelinan said that going through all of the signatures was difficult but necessary. Pangelinan said that no matter what side of the issue voters are on the initiative is a way for the voice of the people to be heard. “So proponents can come up and they can do due process where they can propose initiatives so the hard work is worth it. If that many people believe this should go forth, then I’m very happy to be part of the process to validate it and to get it on the election.” Currently only charity bingo is allowed on the island and residents also have access to internet bingo sites.