Saipan Casino Developer Not Tied To Any Politicians: CEO

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Best Sunshine ‘committed to making a difference in the community’

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 21, 2014) – The developer of the $7.1 billion integrated resort on Saipan is committed to making a difference in the community, but it vows to remain apolitical.

In an interview yesterday, Best Sunshine International Ltd. chief executive officer Mark A. Brown refuted allegations that it is leaning toward a particular candidate or party.

"We are not tied to any side, any political side," Brown said asserting Best Sunshine’s nonpartisan position.

"Whoever the people select, that’s who we’ll be happy with," he said adding that whatever the outcome, they are eager to get started.

What frustrates Brown is that there are some who keep tying them to the political race.

"I don’t understand. Somebody has to explain that to me. For this group to take out a full page ad about us, in two different papers — total waste of money," he said.

He said those responsible for the ads in the newspaper "need to explain to me why you are tying us to a certain side when we have not given one dollar — we have not done anything. We don’t care who wins, really."

He reiterates that they have not firmed up their plans yet as they have yet to determine where the location of the resort will be.

"We are sitting around waiting for our site. In the meantime, we have given $10 million to the people. We are gathering groups and picking up trash on the island. We are doing everything positively for the people who live here and we are going to have something that is going to change the island for everyone,’ said Brown.

Brown asked what the group assailing them intended to accomplish.

"This negative group, what do you want to accomplish? Do you want us to go home? What would you accomplish — nothing!" he said.

Brown said that the group is obviously against the other side "which we have nothing to do with."

Numbers don’t lie; however, the figures used in the advertisements were entirely incorrect according to senior vice president for corporate marketing Jackie Wu.

"The information there is false," she said.

Brown concurred that the advertisements were totally "misleading."

For Wu, "The numbers don’t make any sense."

She said if the group that has been attacking them in the newspaper advertisements had done research, they would have known that everything’s in the public domain.

"We are a Hong Kong listed company," said Wu adding that even the $15 million annual license fee is stated there and would be paid upon the signing of the agreement.

She said they also announced the distribution of $10 million in community funds.

She said they made it public that they will be issuing $20 million in additional community funds every year after the facilities begin operating.

Best Sunshine is as restless as any developer yearning to jumpstart a promising project.

But land remains a major stumbling block.

"Everything hinges on where the site is going to be," said Wu.

Both Wu and Brown pointed out that they will exhaust all available labor on island before they resort to any off-island hiring.

"If we exhaust the local resources, then we will reach out to the other islands," said Wu.

Both Brown and Wu said that once they have used what’s available on the islands, then they will consider labor from China, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

Best Sunshine here to stay

Variety asked Best Sunshine executives about the uncertainties surrounding the Saipan casino law — that it could change with a change in the administration and the legislature. Wu said, "The law is the law."

Brown said, "We have a signed deal."

Wu reiterated that they have a contract tied to the law — the current law.

"If there is advice from a future government, then we will work with the government," said Wu.

Brown and Wu say they are committed to investing in the community.

"We are here — for many, many years. We are one of the big investors here on the island. We need to work together," said Wu.

‘We are paying taxes’

Concurring with the governor’s statement to Variety the other day, Best Sunshine CEO Mark A. Brown insisted that they are for paying taxes and giving back to the community.

"We are definitely paying," said Brown as Wu identified tourism and income as among the taxes.

Wu also said, "We will be paying taxes. We won’t know how much tax we are going to pay until we know where our land is."

It is all contingent on where the integrated resort will be built.

The size and magnitude of the construction and the number of workers will be determined once they have identified the location.

$35 million a year

Once the integrated resort begins operating, Best Sunshine will be remitting up to $35 million a year.

This will be the annual $15 million license plus the $20 million in community funds.

"There is the $20 million for the community contribution fund for every year we operate plus the $15 million [in annual license]," said Wu.

Wu said the sooner they can find land and begin construction, the sooner they can start remitting the $20 million for the community’s use.

Brown and Wu said they are considering "whatever is available."

Wu said they will be working with the Department of Public Lands.

But Wu was quick to point out that not every piece of property meets the requirements.

Wu said their contract states that all the hotel property they acquire should have access to the beach.

"It has to have access to the beach," she said.

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