Tinian Casino Closure Forces Island To Think Differently

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

News Release

Office of the Mayor of Tinian and Aguiguan Tinian, CNMI

September 14, 2015

In response to ongoing concerns about the impending closure of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino, Tinian Mayor Joey P. San Nicolas said "the time is now for Tinian to start thinking about the big picture" when it comes to attracting investments to the island.

"The devastating impact of our lone casino’s closure should teach us that we must find ways to attract, encourage, and diversify the types of investments that we bring to our islands," he said.

In order to accomplish this goal, San Nicolas said that Tinian needs to be creative in identifying solutions to the ongoing infrastructure problems that has long been in the way of the island’s development.

"My predecessors faced the same fiscal restraints I face today regarding our infrastructure needs. Money is always going to be the problem. That is why I have been working aggressively to develop a partnership with all government agencies involved and the private sector to identify solutions for our most basic infrastructure needs."

San Nicolas said he has been working toward this goal in the last several months by working with the central government and its various agencies to assess, identify issues, and develop an action plan to begin working toward a solution to Tinian’s infrastructure challenges.

Most recently, San Nicolas organized a summit on Saipan, inviting various public and private stakeholders to discuss and address Tinian’s landfill problem. As a result of the summit, Tinian is now moving forward to finally address this issue, San Nicolas said, by partnering up with the Alter City Group, which has agreed to provide funding to fence and contain the current landfill, with the ultimate goal of capping it.

"This is a short-term solution to our landfill problem but as of this moment, Tinian can now say that the problem is being addressed," he added.

San Nicolas will also meet with Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Mary Anne Lizama to discuss landing direct flights on Tinian. For the past couple of months, he has been working on an action plan with his leadership team and the Tinian Legislative Delegation to assess potential challenges and to identify funding sources to allow for direct flights prior to the completion of Tinian’s ongoing airport renovation.

"Typhoon Soudelor has taught us that the survival of our tourism/casino industry and our fragile local economy requires that we have the ability to land direct flights on Tinian. I have been working toward that goal and it is my hope, with the help of CPA, the Tinian Legislative Delegation and our private partners, to welcome direct international flights to Tinian before the end of this year."

The announcement of the Dynasty’s closure has raised numerous concerns over Tinian’s ability to sustain its essential public programs, continued employment of municipal employees, and displacement of hundreds of CW workers, most of whom have lived on Tinian for over 10 years.

"My primary job as mayor is to ensure the betterment of every single person who lives on Tinian. Many years ago, Tinian voted to develop a casino industry with the belief that the community will be benefited by the revenues generated by the casino. Tinian has reaped many benefits from our lone casino. This impending closure should make us all realize the dangers of putting all our eggs in one basket. As leaders, it is our job to continue to promote and foster this industry and to ensure that one casino’s closure does not devastate the whole island’s economy."

San Nicolas said he has formed a task force to review the 1989 Revised Gaming Act to gather public and private input to make recommendations as to whether amendments to the current Gaming Act is needed. With the assistance of the Tinian Legislative Delegation, he is also looking to advance legislation that would clarify the current Qualifying Certificate program to allow for Tinian casinos to qualify, and legislation that would allow for the creation of partnership programs between private companies and the municipality.

"Investors who want to do business on Tinian can only benefit by partnering with the municipality to develop our infrastructure as this type of investment is necessary for our mutual successes," he said.

San Nicolas believes that the overall success of the CNMI is interdependent on the ability of both Tinian and Rota to develop and grow their own economy. He calls for the assistance of all the leaders of the CNMI, the central government and its agencies, to contribute their efforts and assistances toward this goal.

"We are one CNMI. I ask that we as leaders of the Commonwealth, heads of government agencies, and partners in the private sector, work collaboratively to ensure that each island has the ability to thrive, weather the toughest storms and contribute toward the overall success of the CNMI."

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