Two apply for Saipan casino license

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands — Two foreign companies have applied for an exclusive casino license on Saipan. Each paid the application fee of $1 million.

Press Secretary Angel A. Demapan said, «the commonwealth received two applications for the development of a casino resort on the island of Saipan.»

He said the applications are from Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc. and Best Sunshine International Ltd. Both companies deposited $1 million into the CNMI government’s Bank of Guam account.

“The submission of these applications and the accompanying funds is the first step in the casino development process as identified in Public Law 18-38,” Demapan told reporters.

“The next step is for a further deposit of $30 million on May 5th and approval or denial of the applications by June 19.”

Gov. Eloy S. Inos said, “The deposit of the $2 million confirms the viability of the proposal to spur economic development through a highly regulated development plan. This development is not just about casinos. It is about construction of new hotels, expansion of infrastructure and the creation of thousands of jobs.”

According to the governor, “The issue that is the most appealing is that it will provide an economic future for many families, increased demand for real property, and many business opportunities for local residents. We will be closely reviewing these applications to ensure that they meet our objectives and protect the long-term interest of our residents.”

The Saipan casino law’s primary goal is to restore the cuts made to the retirees’ pensions and pay interest to Retirement Fund members who withdrew their contributions.

“It’s a big deal and these folks want to make sure. I expect that these submissions will be hand-delivered by this afternoon just to make sure they get here on time and get stamped.”

According to the Saipan casino law, whoever gets the exclusive casino license must invest $2 billion in an integrated resort which will include the construction of 2,000 hotel rooms.

Press Secretary Demapan said applicants were required to submit detailed information concerning their financial capability, experience in gaming, development plans and a three-year business plan.

He said all the information submitted will be thoroughly reviewed by a panel consisting of the attorney general, the secretaries of Finance and Commerce, and the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. These officials are members of the lottery commission.

Demapan said these officials will also call on experts in the field of hotel development, tourism, law enforcement and gaming to assist in the evaluation of the applications.

In a separate interview, anti-casino advocate and former teacher Ambrose Bennett said he knows that retirees want their money back, but he does not think the community as a whole “really wants to accept the disrespect the Inos administration has shown them.”

He said the way he sees it now, “there will be $30 million to bribe the voters to win the elections.”

However, he is confident that the people will vote for a governor that will push for an alternative to a casino — “a governor who knows how to respect the will of the people and has the means to revive the economy other than through a casino.”

He said the next Legislature can repeal the casino law.

“They won a battle but the war is not over,” he said adding that the collection of signatures for the repeal of the casino law continues.

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