Bingo May Be Banned in Guam

In the remote Pacific island of Guam bingo has been a hot topic. The passage of Bill 19, an amendment proffered by Senator Michael San Nicolas, will effectively ban gambling on Guam. The ban includes cockfighting and bingo. Charitable and seniors citizen groups that depend on bingo for fundraising are particularly upset about the bill’s passage. Annie Sablan is the vice president of a senior citizen group in Sinajana told reporters “When they determined that if Sinajana senior citizens or any other centers the senators have to understand that seniors are different we are here we are a non-profit organization we don’t have any money coming in to our center it’s just a game of fun.”

If the bill is signed into law it will ban all gambling on the island once the Guam Memorial Hospital has paid off debts to vendors. Senator San Nicolas said the bill was all or nothing and Sinajana Mayor Robert Hoffman believes revenues will be nothing once gambling is banned at the traditional Liberation Carnival and other activities. Hoffman stated “The gaming part of the liberation and the raffle covers a lot of the expenses that the liberation festivities taken sponsors are there but they are not enough to cover really many of the improvements made at the carnival were because of the gaming that exists there.”

Hoffman told reporters that mayors on the island were blindsided by San Nicholas’s amendment. In February Senator Chris Duenas bragged about the revenues that would be collected from limited gambling on Guam. The Mayor’s Council actually passed a resolution backing Bill 19 in February. Duenas told reporters “I was kind of shocked when I first heard about it I was at the legislature in the morning half of the session and was asking how does this affect the mayor’s council, our senior citizen’s operation liberation and we were kind of assured that this is not going to happen bill 19 is about the GNOC sports bingo and Bill 20 is about the gaming devices this is not your fight.”

Island seniors and gambling advocated feel like they were not given the chance to defend their position. Amanda L.G. Santos said “I wish we could talk to those senators and explain it to them our situation as manamko because they are not in their manamko (elders) their senior citizen years maybe they don’t understand what going on here they should come and visit us.” It appears that less than honest tactics were used for the anti-gambling measure. Guam seniors enjoy their bingo games and the money is used for programs that benefit the island’s elders. It looks like in the near future Guam residents may have to play internet bingo. Problem is, the money will leave the island instead of benefiting the community.