Yumul’s gambling bill an atrocious attack on the poor, and will be a significant economic step backward if passed

By Mabel Doge Luhan

On February 15th, the Marianas Variety dropped an absolutely magisterial piece of local journalism by Andrew Roberto: “Gambling bill supports economic activity, says lawmaker; chamber of commerce opposes measure.”

For once, I’m not being sarcastic, because this article was really well-written. I got extra jollies (no 9V battery needed!) from the headline using the normal term, “gambling,” rather than the mendacious marketing-speak of “e-gaming.” That and the article even had some critical thought and question-asking involved. Andrew Roberto’s article is a textbook example of well-done local news reporting.

And also props to Ralph Yumul, for his proposed legislation: a textbook example of an actually harmful proposal, and a lesson on why we should consider paying our “legislators” to stay home and not propose any more bills like this. Of course, they wouldn’t be happy with that, since these made-to-order bills are likely where they derive their income, but that’s a different topic!

More poker shops! In the Garapan tourist area! I’m all for robbing the poor, but must you be so blatant about it, Ralph Yumul?

Ralph presents some convoluted logic about this being a good idea because rents are high in Western Garapan, so only poker shops can afford those rents?

“As you know, the western Garapan district is considered high real estate value, so not a lot of businesses can just come and open in the area, because you’re going to have to pay the premium rates for the lease and so forth…”

Andrew Roberto should have gone full steam at this and tried to pull out of Ralph an explanation of what exactly he means. He certainly wouldn’t be accustomed to being actually taken to task by a Variety reporter. My guess is that Ralph likely had heard someone talking about how western Garapan has high rents, and he was just repeating that, and hoping it somehow congeals into an argument.

The obvious responses are:

  1. It sure won’t be a high-rent area after these poker shops move in. No regular business, other than a meth dealer or a pawn shop, wants to be next to a poker shop.

  2. Is it Ralph Yumul’s job to tell different businesses where to set up shop, based on rents? That’s normally the job of the market.

And the response that is on the tip of my tongue is whether some of IPI’s completely legitimate, law-abiding Chinese businesspeople have regrouped and now want to run poker shops in Garapan — the same way the Tinian Dynasty crew regrouped under a new name.

In what world do poker shops create economic development for anyone but their owners? Bridge Capital made a business of selling that lie to electorates.

One also wonders why, in the original legislation (18-30), gambling operation is restricted to hotels with a hundred rooms or a golf course. Are smaller hotels somehow less capable of paying bri— licensing fees?

Instead of “or has a golf course” the bill could have also said “or has a Winchell’s” or “or has a flashing sign” or “or has meth addicts wandering the parking lot at 3 AM.” Let’s make western Garapan look like the parking lot of Saipan Vegas. Great idea. Tourists love that.

Just like the original pitch, proposed some thirty years ago, that rich Japanese golfers would flock to the poker shops. Right. The people selling that idea to us back then weren’t stupid. They were just absolutely taimamalao and could lie to us with a smile. Have we learned anything since then?

Western Garapan becoming a gambling and meth den (to the extent it isn’t one already) will kill what little tourism Saipan has left. Can you imagine the social media videos in Korea of hapless tourists walking past flashing gambling signs and roaming (always shirtless!) meth addicts? How’s that for “exposure value,” MVA?

Oh yes, MVA! MVA staff must be busy packing their bags and working on their beach bodies, as it’s not even a fortnight before their Langkawi vacation, but could they possibly find some time to oppose this gambling measure? Show that you’re interested in improving this destination, not just in free travel. Take a junket to a third-world border casino if you must!

If we all know tourists won’t visit Saipan’s poker shops, then who will? Saipan’s poor, of course. The usual. Everyone knows that.

If Ralph Yumul had casually researched the topic (that’s a counterfactual), he’d also know all the studies showing that during economic downturns, poor people gamble more, but everyone else gambles less. (e.g., Horváth, C., Paap, R. The Effect of Recessions on Gambling Expenditures. J Gambl Stud 28, 703–717, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-011-9282-9) He doesn’t know, of course, but does he even care?

Let’s repeat the obvious. The main, almost only, customers of Saipan’s gambling shops are addicts trying to “earn” enough for their next hit. To claim anything else, if you’ve spent even a day living in Saipan, is simply dishonest. Or maybe you think there’s nothing wrong with lying to voters and robbing the poor to enrich whoever your paymasters are?

What’s next for taking the last of the Saipan poor’s money — proposing a pugua tax? Oh wait, we already have that.

Maybe we can have a “singing contest” that costs money to enter and is promoted by the newspapers. Oops, we have that too.

Miracle Healing Crusade, to rob those who are poor and sick? Say no more! It’s just a week away, and you know the newspapers will go all-out promoting it!

You might as well encourage some small shady markets so desperate poor folks can trade their food stamps for cash… oh, we have that already!

It’s true then. There’s only one remaining way to take more of Saipan poor people’s money. Promote more gambling in western Garapan. See you in Hell.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


  • The Garapan Gambling initiative is more dead horse beating. As has been proven time and time again, gambling doesn’t work well here. Yes, there are many poker addicts among the locals and the Chinese, but that’s no reason to aid and abet them.

    Any time pro-gambling legislation rears its stinky head, i am reminded that we live in a fear-based society, a desperate, fear-based, society. It never seems to occur to our lawbeakers that gambling will not attract tourists, upon which the focus should be.

    The late Dr. David Hawkins published a chart on consciousness/spiritual attainment. The highest at 1,000 was Jesus, the Buddha and Krishna. The lowest was slime mold, at zero. An average person logs in at around 200, but below that in th 100 range, are fear-based cretins such as Yumul and Victor Hocoq. Their heads are in the gutter.

    The good news is that we have some people of substance in the government, the top being Kilili. After this great man are worthy leaders, Ed Villagomez, Tina Sablan, Ed Probst, and Celina Babauta. Palacios and Apatang hover around 250: they can’t be “bought” but are fresh out of creativity and ideas.

    If you are not familiar with David Hawkins, MD, PhD, treat yourself to his videos on YouTube. They are short – 4 to 5 minutes – and explain how sentient beings behave, and are ranked accordingly. You will discover that a dolphin has more intelligence than Ralph Yumul.

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