A special investigative series into the slot machine gaming industry tearing apart Guam's families
By Jacob Nakamura, Johnnie Rosario, Eric Rosario, and Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) When the 34th Guam Legislature decided to raise the business privilege tax from four percent to five percent, senators ignored the BPT's tax sisters: the limited gaming tax and the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority Trust Fund Fee.
The two gaming taxes - the LGT and the GMHA Trust Fund Fee - were created by Public Law 32-60 (which also legalized the Liberty machines) to mirror the island's BPT, which generally is an assessment of a tax on a percentage of total receipts before backing out any expenses or debt. There are a few exceptions to this assessment, including the notorious exemptions that allow banks to pay the tax only on net receipts.
In the committee report containing the transcription of the public hearing on the gaming law, it was then-Sen. Michael San Nicolas, who pointed out that gambling businesses were not paying taxes on gross receipts. The bill's author, former Sen. Chris Duenas, pointed out that the passage of his bill will ensure gambling businesses like Guam Music, Inc. will pay the BPT and the LGT. In the case of Liberty machine owners and operators, they would pay an additional GMHA Trust Fund Fee of four percent.
The amount for each tax and fee - four percent - was intended to mirror the assessed BPT at that time - four percent.
However, when senators last year increased the BPT to five percent, they failed to increase the LGT and the GMHA Trust Fund Fee to five percent as well.
Was this an oversight on the part of senators? The answer is unclear so long as the Guam Legislature continues to withhold the committee reports for the public hearings on bills heard before the 34th Guam Legislature.
However, there is a public record of local businessman and activist Ken Leon Guerrero raising the idea of a higher tax on these gamerooms instead of raising the BPT last year. Those suggestions and even the mere mention of harming the profits of Guam's gambling mafia fell on deaf ears.
So did a proposal by former Gov. Eddie Calvo, which originated with former Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, Jr., to remove the exemptions that wholesalers, bankers, insurance companies, and others receive against their payment of the BPT. Part of the discussion of this proposal was to leave the four-percent BPT in tact, because of the corresponding excise taxes found throughout Guam Code Annotated (such as the LGT and the GMHA Trust Fund Fee) that would require a thorough review. Mr. Calvo and Mr. Rodriguez proposed instead to recover revenue from industries that got exemptions from paying taxes on their gross receipts.
Senators were made aware of the concern regarding the disparity of increasing the BPT without increasing the corresponding excise taxes like the taxes on Liberty machines, and still did not increase the gaming taxes to correspond with the BPT increase to five percent.
The effect? Well, Liberty and gameroom owners, once again, get special favorable treatment from the lawmakers whose pockets are lined by these millionaires.