February 9, 1999
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. ---- FALEOMAVAEGA RESPONDS TO FONO REQUEST
FOR VIEWS ON POKER MACHINES
Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has submitted to the American Samoa House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means a statement in support of Senate Bill 26-7 on the issue of gambling.
In a letter accompanying his statement which Faleomavaega sent to the Honorable Su'a Carl Schuster, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Congressman announced his agreement with proponents of S.B. 26-7 regulating "gambling" in American Samoa.
"I congratulate the Senate for having the determination to deal with the issue of gambling head on as indicated by its passage of Senate Bill 26-7. It is time that we take a strong stand against unfair commercial interest or gain," said Faleomavaega.
While Congressman Faleomavaega expressed strong support for the Senate Bill, he hopes the House will pass legislation with language clarifying this matter.
"One of the things that concerns me the most is the lack of a legal framework for the gambling industry in American Samoa. For example, in the states, gambling is monitored very closely, and most states stipulate by law how much of the gambling revenues must go to public education, basic infrastructure, or other public purposes," said Faleomavaega. "In American Samoa, there is no such law."
"It should be clear to everyone by now that the poker machines in American Samoa are not for amusement, but are in fact gambling. When you play, the intent is to win, but it is not an `amusement' when you lose. Playing these gambling machines is a form of highway robbery because the odds of winning the jackpot are set by law in the states, but in American Samoa there are no set odds," continued the Congressman.
Faleomavaega noted that, unlike the states, American Samoa does not have a gaming commission or other such body to ensure that poker machines are in good working order and provide a fair payout. "In the absence of such oversight," said the Congressman, "poker machines, as currently operated, are a 100% foolproof way of stealing from the people."
In his statement, Congressman Faleomavaega outlined a few changes to the law he would like the legislature to consider. Among those changes is elevating gambling activities from a "misdemeanor" to a "felony."
"As I have said in the past, gambling activity in our territory has reached new heights, and some people cannot stop," said Faleomavaega. "We have all heard the stories of people who become addicted to this form of gambling, and lose money which should have gone to support family and children," said the Congressman. "The government loses out as well," he continued. "Winnings from these poker machines are paid in cash. Under current law, I question whether these gambling payouts are reported as income for taxation purposes."
In addition to making it a felony, the Congressman suggests that religious, non-profit or charitable organizations wishing to operate bingo games or raffles be certified and required to file with the local government an accounting of the receipts and expenses incurred for each bingo game or raffle conducted.
"The intent is not necessarily to punish the religious, non-profit or charitable organization, but to make sure that gambling activities are properly regulated by law," concluded Faleomavaega.