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Guam gambling bill flares ongoing fight

HAGATNA, Guam >> A bill to tax gambling machines in Guam to pay for hospital operations is flaring up a fight between the attorney general’s office, the tax department, machine owners and lawmakers on all sides of the issue.

Pacific Daily News reported that territorial lawmakers had a lengthy discussion on the issue on Friday.

The bill is pushing to generate at least $3 million per year by taxing companies involved with providing the machines. The bill would also tax gross receipts, license fees and income taxes.

But Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas says the bill would legitimize the machines. He told lawmakers he would consider challenging the bill in court if it becomes law.

Two cases on whether the machines are legal were dropped in court last month, prompting the taxation department to license the machines. Rapadas issued a directive for the taxation department to revoke the licenses, but the machines are still in use.

Sandra Miller, a lawyer for the governor’s office, told senators Friday that because there was no ruling in court after five years, Guam law states machines classified as “amusement devices” before August 2001 are legal.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz says Miller should not have advised the taxation department, threatening to report an ethics violation.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, who introduced the bill, questioned how Rapadas can call the machines illegal without a court decision.

“We have people out there who are thinking we are opening the floodgates,” he said. “We are not. We’re affirming that those machines — and it’s limited, they can’t add any more — are the only ones that are being authorized.”

Lawmakers plan to continue discussing the bill next week.

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