Saipan’s Only Licensed Cockfighting Arena Closes

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Illegal cockfighters are causing the owner of the only licensed cockfighting arena in Saipan to close his doors. Nick C. Sablan says he is quitting because of local authorities' failure to stop illegal cockfights on the 45-square-mile island.

Sablan, operator of the only licensed cockpit in Garapan on Middle Road., announced he has discontinued his operation, after winning a contract for a five-year license for $41,000. The contract took effect in 2010.

Saipan is located about 120 miles north of Guam and is the largest of the chain of fifteen tropical islands in the western Pacific Ocean constituting the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).

“I am very frustrated with the lack of cooperation from the authorities, and the illegal operators’ lack of respect for the law and I just cannot tolerate it anymore,” Sablan told Mayor Donald G. Flores in a letter.

In his letter, Sablan also informed the mayor that a few months ago he directed the police to an illegal cockfighting activity. Some individuals were arrested but no one was charged or prosecuted, Sablan wrote.

“I cannot in good faith continue, knowing that my competitors are operating without consequences while I struggle to recover my investment. The truth is the numbers are not there anymore to justify the continuation of this operation,” Sablan told the mayor.

Mayor Flores said he will ask the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety, again, to help put an end to illegal cockfighting activities on the island.

“I am hopeful that someone else will get the license,” Flores said, adding that his office has already announced the bidding for it.

Sablan suggested in his letter to the mayor that a law be recommended so that a cockfight operator can apply for a business license instead of a franchise. He also proposed that the Saipan legislative delegation should come up with a fee similar to what is paid by the poker industry. This, he added, will give illegal cockfight operators a chance to legitimize their operation and pay taxes

The cockfighting arena is not the only business that has closed in Saipan. Saipan's population was 48,220 in 2010--a drop of 22.7% from the 2000 U.S. Census. The decrease is largely attributed to the collapse of the garment industry, which caused immigrant workers (mainly from China) to move to other locations with economic opportunities, such as Guam and the United States.

As of March 2007, nineteen companies manufactured garments on Saipan; such names as, Gap,, Levi Strauss, Phillips-Van Heusen, Abercrombie & Fitch, L'Oreal subsidiary Ralph Lauren (Polo), Tommy Hilfiger, and Walmart.

Currently, there are no garment manufacturers, with the last one closing on January 15, 2009, after the  Commonwealth  came under Federal minimum wage regulations in 2007 and immigration law in 2008, based on concerns about working conditions of workers.

Mayor Flores said he was “saddened” by Sablan’s decision to close the cockfighting arena,  which will reduce the revenue of the mayor’s office and affect its delivery of services to the community.



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