Proponents, opponents of game rooms square off

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There were mixed testimonies Wednesday on Sen. Telena Nelson’s Bill 226-35 which seeks to prohibit unauthorized gaming.

Gil Shinohara, testifying for Guam Music game rooms, said the industry comprises 300 businesses on Guam and Bill 226 would essentially kill the industry and deprive the employees of these businesses and their families of their livelihood.

He said the situation will be “far worse” if the game room industry is shut down because many people will be unemployed.

Shinohara also pointed out that the industry is already highly controlled, highly regulated, and highly taxed.

He pointed out that the industry is already highly taxed at 17 percent and that only alcohol and tobacco are taxed higher.

Shinohara said they are asking for nothing in return, just a chance to operate their business.

“This bill eliminates our industry and hurts many people,” Shinohara said.

On the opposite side, testifying was Jackie Marati representing the anti-gambling group Keep Guam Good.

Marati, who said she was testifying in her personal capacity, said gambling has never been about jobs.

“It has always been about the gambling businesses and staying profitable. Moreover, with social distancing and hygiene costs and storefronts down to 50% of capacity, we know that rather than saving jobs, the truth is gambling owners will want to keep their parlors full of gamblers with as few employees as possible,” Marati said.

She added that Guam doesn’t need to go far to see the ultimate failure of gambling repeated over and over, with decades of broken promises of revenues and jobs and now failed industries, which touch every part of the community.

“Gambling is not a sustainable business. The pandemic has shown that,” Marati said.

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