CNMI’s Tinian Casino To Suspend Operations For 6 Weeks

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

CNMI’s Tinian Casino To Suspend Operations For 6 Weeks Lack of customers, cancelled flights cited as reason by shutdown

By Dennis B. Chan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 4, 2016) – The Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino will be suspending its hotel operations for about six weeks starting tomorrow due to a lack of customers and cancelled flights, an apparent business decision that will leave hundreds of employees without pay for the most part over the next month and a half.

Dynasty general manager Christopher Bishop and Tinian Mayor Joey San Nicolas separately confirmed yesterday that hotel operations would be suspended effective March 5 to April 15, except from March 13 to 19, when the hotel has an event which was already booked, according to Bishop.

San Nicolas said he was informed by the chairman of Hong Kong Entertainment, Wai Chan, of the closure in a letter, and that, "according to them, it is a temporary suspension." HKE owns the hotel.

San Nicolas, when asked for the reasons for closure, said the hotel was lacking customers and that there "has been some cancellation of flights." Bishop, for his part, said the reason for the temporary closure was a "lack of customers" and a "slow season" especially for their Chinese tourists.

San Nicolas, when asked, said there was "no mention" of compensation for hotel employees in the HKE letter. "That’s our biggest concern," San Nicolas said. "What is going to happen to the employees? And what is going to happen after the 15th of April. What are your plans?"

Employees, Bishop said, were already briefed about the month-long shutdown and that they are behind the management on the matter.

The hotel has a reported 390 employees.

However, when pressed about compensation, Bishop said, "They will be paid when they work."

Dynasty reached a settlement last month with its 531 current and former workers to pay $1,737,878.46—after almost five months of non-payment of wages from August 2015 through January 2016, and liquidated damages.

The first payment was made on time on Feb. 23 with the other owed wages and liquidated damages to be paid on March 15.

"That will be paid in full on time," Bishop said when asked if they can still honor the agreement.

Still, some of the hotel’s 390 current employees have concerns on the closure.

One employee, who was only briefed about the closure last Wednesday, stares down the face of unemployment starting tomorrow. The employee expressed uncertainties on the hotel’s reopening, as "they’ll never know what will happen."

Some employees said they are thinking of looking for other jobs on Saipan, while others expressed they couldn’t do anything but to wait if the hotel will indeed reopen.

Bishop, on the other hand, assured the public of their return to services and that they will be expecting a "high number" of visitors in the coming months.

"Starting April 15, we’re going back to our busy, heavy season. We’re expecting more charter flights to come in," Bishop said.

‘Worry for employees’

The Tinian leadership met in the Senate chamber on Saipan around 4pm yesterday to be briefed by San Nicolas on the matter.

"Since we are here for another occasion, the mayor asked everyone to remain here and discuss so we don’t have to mobilize down to Tinian," said Tinian Municipal Council chair Ray Cing yesterday.

"We want to know in detail what exactly is going on," he added.

Cing emphasized the leadership’s concern for the hotel employees. "That’s the reason why we’ve been pressuring from the beginning. Employees are the most critical part there. Shutting down is not a good thing."

"It’s disturbing," said Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian). "But we also want to recognize that it may or may not be a business decision on the dynasty’s part."

Hofschneider added the biggest concern was "what’s next?"

"Are they going to reopen? What are they going to do with the staff?—and the biggest question—what about the gaming on the casino floors?" were the questions on his mind yesterday.

"It is very unfortunate that it has to come at this time. We just need to discuss it further with them and see what are there plans moving forward," Hofschneider said.

San Nicolas acknowledged he would be formalizing these concerns in a letter back to HKE, and would eventually seek a meeting with the hotel.

San Nicolas also clarified separate reports that the Dynasty was closing due to "renovations."

"First things first, I need to consult with the Tinian delegation and council on this very important matter," San Nicolas said outside the legislature before stepping into meet with the Tinian leaders.

(with Frauleine Villanueva-Dizon)

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