Those looking for a good bet at this year’s Liberation Day Carnival are likely to lose. Amid the Liberation Day committee’s attempts to block the casino-ban legislation, the 34th Guam Legislature has voted unanimously to make the annual carnival a gambling-free jamboree.
“This is our chance to put out the fire that gambling has sparked in this community,” said Sen. Telena Nelson, author of Bill 50-34, which would lift the exemptions previously granted to casino-style gambling.
While Guam is supposedly a no-gambling zone, local laws provide for exemptions, occasionally sanctioning operations in desperate attempts to find fiscal salvation. “Public offices are becoming dependent on profits from professionally managed and equipped gambling enterprises at the Liberation Carnival fair grounds that are otherwise prohibited from operating under the laws of Guam,” states Bill 50-34.
In 2013, the 33rd Guam Legislature passed a compromise proposal to defer the ban on all forms of gambling until the debts incurred by the Guam Memorial Hospital—the bill’s beneficiary—are paid off. Leonardo Rapadas, then Guam’s attorney general, described the measure, Bill 19, as an attempt “to legalize currently illegal electronic gambling devices.”
While claiming to stand up for an anti-gambling policy, Gov. Eddie Calvo betrayed his tentative position. He hedged his bets by allowing the bill to lapse into law, declaring that “nothing will change except that the hospital will get more money.”
If Bill 50-34 eventually takes effect, the next step is to hunt for alternative resources to assist planners of the Liberation Day activities, according to Sen. Tommy Morrison.
Nelson sees hope in the passage of Bill 50-34, which she said shows that “social ramifications of gambling and the voices of the people of Guam offset any revenue” generated from gambling operations. “Our public safety, our social environments, our representative government, our rich history – they are not for sale,” she added.
For the anti-gambling lot, the menace that comes with the vice can’t be