Gaming Commission Cancels Tinian Dynasty Casino License

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

HKE failed to comply with financial audit requirements

By Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 12, 2016) – The Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission has cancelled the casino license for Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino’s operators Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investment, Ltd. and Chun Wai Chan during a special meeting held on Tinian yesterday.

The commission made the decision after a 5-0 vote, after TCGCC executive director William M. Cing recommended the cancellation of the casino license.

"The commission has jurisdiction over the cancellation or suspension of a casino license pursuant to the Revised Tinian Casino Gaming Control Act of 1989, which charges the commission with, among other responsibilities, the responsibility to hear and decide all causes affecting cancellation of a casino license," Cing said.

HKE was the operator of TDHC pursuant to a casino license granted by the Commission. Chan is the president and chairman of HKE.

With the cancellation, the Municipality of Tinian and Aguiguan how has three available casino licenses.

Current casino licensees are Bridge Investment Group and Alter City Group.

Under the Revised Tinian Casino Gaming Control Act of 1989, TCGCC cited as a ground for cancellation was the operator’s failure to comply with the audit requirement for the financial years 2008 through 2014.

"A casino operator is required to have its books, account, and financial statements relating to the operations of its casino audited. The audit enables the municipality to ensure that the revenues reported by a casino are accurate, because the revenues are the basis for calculating taxes, which can then be used for local public purposes, such as for education, law enforcement, programs for the youth and elderly, which are vital to the public welfare of Tinian," Cing said.

Another citation was HKE’s failure to keep and maintain separate bank accounts in the CNMI for banking transactions related to the operations of the casino.

"The requirement for separate and local bank account helps to ensure, among other matters, the accuracy of the revenues reported by a casino operator, and therefore the accuracy of the taxes levied on the casino, and the casino’s compliance with laws and regulations such as anti-money laundering law," Cing said.

The third citation was for turning over the administration, management, and operational control of the casino to persons who have not gone through a suitability check.

"A suitability check means checking the background and integrity of owners," Cing said, "It is a foundation of contemporary casino gambling regulation."

"When the people of Tinian voted to allow casino gambling in 1989, the people, also voted to provide strict regulations over casino gambling to be enforced by the commission through the Gaming Act," Cing said.

‘Insurmountable liabilities’

In his statement, Tinian Mayor Joey P. San Nicolas said that while he hoped that the municipality could somehow assist HKE resume operations of the casino at the Dynasty, "the liabilities that have been incurred by HKE in the course of conducting gaming activities are insurmountable."

"As I’ve stated in the beginning of my administration, we will do everything in our ability to continue fostering our casino industry. However, it has to be clear that these endeavors must be within the confines of the Gaming Act. Given all that has been said and done, HKE could not meet the standards set forth by law and I applaud them for recognizing that while we are casino friendly, we have rules that must be followed and this announcement was to be expected," San Nicolas said.

Tinian has not generated any casino revenues for the past seven months which, according to San Nicolas is having a substantial impact in their ability to deliver programs and services.

"However, with planning and prudence we’ve managed to keep our people employed and to assist our school kids, the sick in our community and our man’amko with the little resources that we have. I am proud of that record," San Nicolas said.

"We are definitely far from being out of the woods but through the leadership’s support, we were able to reach out to seek more investors and those efforts are looking like they are going to pay off," he added.

San Nicolas said that with the recent amendments to the Gaming Act, they would be expecting a minimum of $1 million a year from casino license fees.

"That would keep the TCGCC in operation to do what they need to in terms of vetting interested new applicants. I am cautiously optimistic that with hard work and continued collaboration with the Tinian Leadership, we will see the Tinian Dynasty doors open sooner rather than later but with probably a different name," San Nicolas said.

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