IAG July 2014 - page 10

inside
asiangaming
July2014
10
Cover Story
be financed by a combinationof institutional investors and “gaming
industry practitioners”.
Best Sunshine wants to make Saipan “the Monaco of the
Pacific,” says COO Terence Tay, who was general counsel and head
of corporateaffairs forGentingSingaporewhen it developedResorts
World Sentosa, Singapore’s first gaming resort. It proposes an
“iconic” resort with four hotels, shopping and entertainment to be
developed in four phases, thefirst completedby 2018. Best Sunshine
has asked the government for assistance locating suitable public or
private land for the development. Mr Tay says that because of the
delays inherent in planning and construction, Best Sunshine would
like to find an existing facility that it can convert into a gaming hotel
while building its resort. Critics say that statement telegraphed the
group’s plan to open a casino and then delay other development
plans indefinitely.
Marianas Stars proposes a “Legend of the Ocean” theme park
as the centerpiece of its development. In 2017, the parkwould open
with 16 attractions alongside a 500-room five-star hotel, a casino
with 100 table games and 200 machine games, a shopping mall
and multipurpose venue for shows, conventions and exhibitions.
Subsequent phases would add three more hotels, including one
catering to “family and budget travelers,” according to Marianas
Stars’ Web site, plus 10 additional Legend of the Ocean attractions
and an expanded casino featuring 300 tables and 700machines.
A Saipan resort under its ownership will complement Tinian
TheBiddingTurnsUgly
RejectingHouse
of Representatives bills to legalize gaming on
Saipan had been routine for the Senate of the Commonwealth of
NorthernMarianas Islands, with senators from neighboring Tinian
andRota voting toprotect legal casinos on those islands. But a 25%
cut ingovernment pensionbenefitsandmillionsduea court-ordered
pension settlement fund changed the script this year.
InMarch, theHousepasseda legalizationbill forSaipan, offering
an exclusive license in exchange for a commitment to invest US$2
billion and develop 2,000 hotel rooms. Supporters were successful
in tyingcasino licensing revenue to the futuresolvencyof thepension
fund, and the Senate took just over an hour to pass the bill within a
dayof receiving it,without publichearingsor referral toa committee,
despite pleas from some members for more time to review the 37-
page legislation.
“The government faced a dilemma, and someone offered a
simple solution,” says Phillip Mendiola-Long, president of CNMI-
based consultants Sherman Pacific. “The proponents’ fear of an
economic catastrophe overwhelmed their sense of duty to do the
right thing.”
Mr Mendiola-Long’s clients include Bridge Investment Group,
the developers behind an unlikely plan for a casino resort on Tinian
themed, not ironically, around theTitanic.
The legalization bill is now mired in controversy. The rush
to pass the bill came after several legislators and Gov. Eloy Inos
Visitors frommainlandChina to
CNMIgrew43% in thefiscal year
endedSeptember2013,making
them the commonwealth’s third-
biggest sourcemarket.Overall
visitorarrivalsrose11%over the
sameperiod.Thisyear, inFebruary
andagain inMay,China supplanted
JapanandSouthKoreaasCNMI’s
top sourceofvisitorarrivals.Mega
StarsestimatesChinese tourist
arrivalswill reach176,000 thisyear
and251,000nextyear.
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