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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Feb. 27) - Senate President Joseph M. Mendiola yesterday said the land lease agreement of the new casino investor, Marianas Resort and Development Corp., has been returned to the Department of Public Lands for review after a legislative committee found deficiencies in it.

"The committee reviewed the land lease agreement of MRDC and found deficiencies. They have asked DPL to go back and review the agreement," Mendiola, Covenant-Tinian, told Variety yesterday.

He said the department will amend the land lease terms which the committee found "disadvantageous" to Tinian.

"I think they should amend that lease agreement this week," the senator said.

One of the amendments will increase the requirement for local employment from 18 to be 20 percent of the total workforce.

"We need to address this for the project to move on," Mendiola said.

Once the agreement is approved, MRDC can start the physical construction of its casino on Tinian, which it says will involve a US$179 million investment and will include a golf course and hotel.

Since August 2006, the lease agreement between MRDC and DPL has been delayed due to some "gray areas" that needed to be resolved by both parties.

Last month, DPL submitted the agreement to the Legislature but it also recommended amendments to some of its provisions.

The Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission issued a license to MRDC on September 27 last year.

Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino has been operating there since 1998, and another new investor, Bridge Investment Group, says it wants to invest about US$150 million in a new hotel casino.

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