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  • By Bill Jaynes

Pohnpei could again offer a casino option for tourists

Pohnpei (The Kaselehlie Press) —Pohnpei’s Sen. Aurelia Joab made a statement at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) regarding the governor’s plans to establish a resort and casino in Pohnpei. It was not a new idea but his presentation garnered a strong reaction on social media after a youth delegate posted a video of the speech.

The idea was first introduced by former Gov. John Ehsa, albeit on a grander scale than is currently being proposed. Current Gov. Marcelo Peterson also mentioned the idea of a 200-room resort when he gave his State of the State address to the legislature. He said that a company was Pohnpei could again provide a casino option for tourists for a potential resort investor interested “in establishing a 5-star or 4-star hotel operation in Pohnpei and will be adding an additional 200 rooms.”

His speech made no mention of a casino operation but Senator Joab’s presentation to PATA in Saipan did, though Joab’s speech made no mention of any particular investor.

In July of 2016, the governor issued a call for a feasibility study for a 5-star Eco-Lodge Resort. That call also made no mention of a casino operation.

Pohnpei’s Chief of Staff, Joseph Saimon said today that it is true that the Governor submitted a bill to Pohnpei’s Attorney General for review before submission to the legislature that if passed would allow for a casino operation in Pohnpei.

He said that the provisions of the bill would be similar to the bill that the legislature passed during Ehsa’s administration. It would not allow for locals to gamble at the casino but would allow for visiting foreigners to do so.

“A passport would be required for gaming entrance,” he said. Saimon said that the bill that Pohnpei Legislature passed during the Ehsa administration had a “sunset clause” that has expired.

The bill currently on the AG’s desk would also have a similar sunset clause for action. Contrary to what Governor Peterson said during his State of the State address, Saimon said that no developer had yet been identified but if the bill passes legislative scrutiny, the State would issue a call for notices of interest. An investor would be chosen from those investors who submit notices of interest.

Saimon said that a potential site for the resort could be in Dekehtik or on a property in Madolenihmw. He said that Pohnpei legislators spent time in Saipan investigating the operations and history of resort casinos there.

Sen. Joab was in Guam at press time.

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