KOROR, Palau — Members of Palau’s House of Delegates started conducting public hearings in September on the proposed measure to allow casino gaming on the island but were immediately confronted with a petition opposing the move of the lawmakers.
Thirteen of the 16 members of Palau’s lower house, led by Speaker SabinoAnastacio and Delegate Jonathan Isechal, chairman for the Committee on Ways and Means, re-introduced a casino bill permitting controlled casino gaming in Palau. The lawmakers are aiming to change the population’s mind about the casino measure, which has been defeated several times in a referendum and by two presidents’ vetoes.
The House of Delegates is pushing the proposed legislation permitting “controlled” casino gaming in the island nation and citing that revenues from the casino can replace Compact funding Palau receives from the United States and will spur financial independence.
The petition against the casino presented during the public hearings was spearheaded by a group of Palauans and circulated over social media.
The petition stated, “We, the undersigned registered voters and citizens of Palau, unequivocally avow to oppose any casino gaming anywhere in Palau. Furthermore, we strongly believe that casino gambling will add to traffic congestion, sewer, public safety, water problems, marital problems, family financial problems and gambling addictions. Moreover, casino gambling will add more to increased crime.”
The petition also referenced the United States, where it is “salient and evident [… that] law enforcement agencies have problems dealing with increased crime even in their affluent communities.”
It is not known how many have signed the petition so far.
Educator and former senator Santy Asanuma said that the public hearings are conducted to sway people to give their approval to casino gaming.
“Casino gambling is against public value and beliefs, and yes, they are wrestling with public opinion and hoping to sway it to their perspective by providing ridiculous pie-in-the-sky incentives,” Asanuma told the Journal.
The petition asks members of the House of Delegates to withdraw its support to the bill and asks the senators and President Thomas E. Remengesau Jr. to reject the proposed measure.
Isechal said his committee has already conducted public hearings in 11 states and is scheduled to conduct public hearings with the members of the Palau Chamber of Commerce and the Belau Tourism Association.