Guam group seeks new vote on casino gambling issue
Stars and Stripes November 13, 2004
GUAM — An organization that supports casino gambling on Guam is pushing for a court order to hold a special election, claiming a Nov. 2 vote rejecting casinos was invalid.
About 21,200 “no” votes were counted and 13,300 voters favored Proposal A, an initiative that would have legalized casino gambling on the island, according to the Guam Election Commission. The results have yet to be certified by the commission.
Controversy began in September over the failure of the election commission to mail each voter a copy of the 80-page initiative as required by law. Guam Attorney General Douglas Moylan agreed and stated publicly that the vote would be invalid.
U.S. District Court Judge Alex Munson refused to stop the vote on the initiative, but said the complainants could test the legality of the vote after it occurred. After the election, the proponents reaffirmed their intention to pursue, in court, a special election.
“The election is invalid,” said Jay Merrill, Citizens for Economic Diversity consultant and one of the complainants in the court case. “If we’re going to have an initiative process that means anything we need to make sure the rules are followed.”
The group Communities Opposing Prop A said the vote should stand. “The people spoke; they spoke convincingly,” said Jackie Marati, COPA president. The group spent about $75,000 on an ad campaign opposing the initiative.
CFED is made up of businesspeople who promoted casino gambling as a needed boost for Guam’s economy, which has been in a slump for the past seven years. The group had the backing of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association and spent “in the low six figures” to get the initiative on the ballot and launch an ad campaign.
Opponents, on the other hand, included every elected official on Guam and many religious groups.
Most visible among the opponents were Archbishop Anthony Apuron — Guam is more than 75 percent Roman Catholic — and popular delegate to the U.S. Congress Madeleine Bordallo, who ran unopposed in the election.
Objections were based on social costs, morality, questionable economic benefit, potential damage to Guam’s image as a family tourist destination and specifics of the proposal.