Saipan ‘Live’ Casino Formally Opens In T Galleria

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

Saipan ‘Live’ Casino Formally Opens In T Galleria Best Sunshine previews gaming to be available at $7.1 billion resort

By Dennis B. Chan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 27, 2015) – The live casino on Saipan formally opens today. Launching at full capacity with 40 gaming tables ready, the Best Sunshine Live casino in T Galleria has announced its grand opening for 6pm this evening, one of many milestones they call part of their aim to help "the CNMI economy recover and change the landscape of gaming in the Pacific."

In a statement, Best Sunshine International, Ltd. said they are eager to uncork surprises as part of its formal launch tonight. One of them is "over $1,000 raffle every hour." "Mark your calendar and join in the merrymaking," the casino statement said.

Best Sunshine says their grand opening will set the tone for the future of gaming operations in the region. "It will herald the entry of a once-sleepy island community into the company of world-class destinations," the casino added.

This bodes well for the rise of Saipan as a "mecca of global travelers with a gnawing hunger for a new brand of entertainment and leisure," the casino said in its statement.

"It’s an outstanding effort," said casino consultant Andrew Klebanow, who has visited over 700 casinos across the globe. He called Best Sunshine’s gaming facility "impressive."

Best Sunshine is planning to build a $7.1-billion multi-phase integrated resort and is planning to realize this through a casino resort in Garapan and other future projects in the northern part of the island. The casino in T Galleria is just a temporary training facility for its workers to gain experience for the projected $500-million project in Garapan, where the former American Samoa housing project used to sit. This project has been dubbed the "Grand Mariana Casino and Hotel Resort" and is reported to finish construction by December 2016.

To date, the casino investor has plunked down $200 million on Saipan, with over 600 employees.

Recently, Best Sunshine brought the entire cast and crew of the Chinese variety show Running Man to film several episodes on Saipan. Best Sunshine said they wanted to bring Saipan to the consciousness of over 400 million viewers in China with this venture.

The casino says they plan to bring in more top media and tour groups from Japan and China, but note they "cannot do it alone."

"It takes the entire community to believe and make it happen. As the CNMI tourism ambassadors usually say, ‘Tourism is our business.’ It should indeed be everyone’s business," Best Sunshine said in its statement.

Regulator mulls presence at casino party

In related news, Saipan casino regulators weighed Wednesday whether they would attend today’s grand opening of the temporary casino in T Galleria.

Envelopes with invites stamped on "golden" tickets have been sent to government officials and lawmakers ahead of the casino’s grand opening.

During their meeting Wednesday, Commonwealth Casino Commission executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero told commissioners that he sent a letter to the Office of the Public Auditor, and copied the CNMI Attorney General’s Office, to seek "guidance on their presence at the casino."

According to Guerrero, the letter sought guidance on "gray areas" in the law, such as whether they could accept a bottle of water or food, or speak at the ceremony if asked.

For his part, Mike Ernest, the commission’s lawyer who also represents the Attorney General, advised against speaking or partaking in food or drink, or even attending at all.

He personally has no plans to attend, unless told to.

"The commission cannot in good conscience take part in it," he said, noting that they should send their enforcement agencies instead.

"The more we are seen to be intertwined" with casino, he said, the more it would affect public perception and would "preclude them from being neutral in fact-finding if a hearing" takes place over any alleged violation during the casino party.

Commissioner Alvaro Santos noted, though, that social courtesy is very important.

"Not to accept is almost offensive. Might as well not show up…especially with our culture.

"OPA wants us to be ‘stoic and stiff,’" he said, but to "show up and leave—that’s very discourteous."

That same day, Saipan Tribune sent an email to Office of Public Auditor lawyer Ashley Kost to follow up on the commission’s concerns. There was no response as of press time yesterday. Phone calls requesting comment from the OPA office were also not immediately responded to on Wednesday. The government was off yesterday and also today.

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