Prospective Casino Developer Suggests CNMI License Both Projects

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Law currently allows Lottery Commission to grant one exclusive license

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 17, 2014) – Gov. Eloy S. Inos said a suggestion from Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc. to award two—instead of one—licenses to develop an integrated casino resort on Saipan would mean starting the whole process all over again, which could include, among other things, throwing out both Marianas Stars and Best Sunshine International Ltd.’s proposals that are now under the Lottery Commission’s review.

House floor leader Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan), author of the bill that became the casino law, said yesterday that "changing the rules in the middle of the game" invites more lawsuits and concerns.

Demapan said parties involved "should just wait for the Lottery Commission’s decision."

"Right now I will not support any proposal to amend the law to have two casino licenses on Saipan because the two applications are now being reviewed based on the existing law," Demapan told Saipan Tribune.

Public Law 18-38, as amended by P.L. 18-43, allows for an exclusive license to develop a minimum $2 billion integrated casino resort on Saipan.

Demapan said consideration of two licenses instead of one, however, could happen if the Lottery Commission rejects both Marianas Stars and Best Sunshine’s proposals. But he said this is too far ahead.

The House floor leader confirmed receiving a call from a Marianas Stars representative regarding their suggestion.

The governor, in an interview on Sunday, said the existing law only allows one casino license.

"I don’t think that there’s any room for discussion about multi-license at this point. I’m aware of their desire. But it looks like…I guess what they’re trying to do is say that if we have two and they’re not in the frontrunner, they’ll be in, right? I guess that’s what they’re thinking. Well it’s not going to happen like that. We have to start all over again if that were to happen," Inos said in an interview at the 70th commemoration of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian.

In an "open letter to people of the CNMI" that appears in today’s newspapers, Marianas Stars asks that two licenses instead of one be awarded, assuming that each of the two applicants meets the qualifications, to promote competition, while at the same time maintaining the current annual license and therefore doubling revenues for public services.

Marianas Stars suggests a two-license approach since the Legislature is now considering "a second round of corrections to the Saipan casino law."

Demapan prefiled last week a bill that "repeals" and "reenacts" P.L. 18-38 as amended by P.L. 18-43, in its entirety, to "ratify good faith actions taken by the Lottery Commission."

Meanwhile, the Lottery Commission will meet again on Thursday to get more updates from its investigators on the status of their investigations into the two applicants and their business plans, amid two pending lawsuits over the passage of the casino bill into law.

The casino law gives the Lottery Commission the options of a 90-day timeframe ending between late June and early July "or" when the investigations into the applicants "have been completed," to decide whether to grant an exclusive casino license and to whom.

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