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CNMI’S NEW ROTA CASINO STRUGGLING Treasure Island empty most of the week

By Emmanuel T. Erediano SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 23, 2010) - The Rota Treasure Island Casino became alive when Guam mayors, municipal council members and their entourage visited on Friday after attending the 17th Association of Mayors, Vice Mayors and Municipal Council Members, or AMIM, meeting.

But on the next day, there was again deafening silence at the casino.

Its doors were open but the poker machines, poker tables and other gambling equipment stood idle along hallways and in the small gaming room when this reporter paid a visit around noon on Saturday.

The casino opens at 3 p.m., but Senate President Paul A. Manglona, Ind.-Rota, admitted that "it’s always like that," referring to the empty gaming room.

Since it opened last August, not a lot of people have gambled at the casino, Manglona said in an interview.

The casino is still new though and this is why it is struggling to get off the ground, he added.

Rota’s casino is not as big as the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino -- which has been struggling since it opened in 1998 -- but it’s empty on most days of the week.

Manglona believes the operators are losing a lot of money as they have about 30 employees.

Manglona said the central government can help the Rota casino.

The Marianas Visitors Authority, he added, just has to do its job.

"I feel they [MVA] can do more," he said.

He noted the Senate proposal to appropriate funds for the Rota charter flight and promotion of Tinian -- which Gov. Benigno R. Fitial vetoed. The Senate overrode it but the House of Representatives sided with the governor.

Manglona said MVA, the administration and the House should be a little bit more sensitive about Rota and Tinian tourism issues.

"Because if we don’t support this [tourism] industry we won’t see much improvement in the economy," he said.

It seems that all of them are trying to "kill" the charter flights to Rota, he added.

House Minority Leader Diego T. Benavente, R-Saipan, reminded Fitial in a letter two weeks ago about the governor’s promise to provide MVA with US$6.2 million during this period when arrivals are down.

Manglona said there is also a need to improve the "inter-island connection" in the Marianas.

The domestic airline services between Guam, Tinian, Rota and Saipan can be strengthened by helping tour agents come up with the best travel package to local travelers, he added.

An attractive package will "practically connect the Mariana islands," he said.

This type of promotion will target potential inter-island travelers: service members, the manamko,’ golfers, ROTC and JROTC cadets, Boy Scouts and students.

But this and other ideas, Manglona said, are "just being put on the side."

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