Northern Mariana Islands Casino and Card Room Gaming
The passing of casino legislation marked a nearly seven-year effort to bring a casino to Saipan. The 2014 measure was ultimately passed as a way to fund retiree pensions, which had been cut by 25% recently.
The two applicants for Saipan’s casino license – Marianas Stars Entertainment and Best Sunshine International – each paid a USD 1 million nonrefundable application fee for the license in April 2014. The applicants will also have to place a USD 30 million up-front fee in escrow for the license. The losing bid will receive its USD 30 million back.
The USD 1 million non-refundable fees will be used to fund Saipan’s gaming commission. The USD 30 million fee will be directed to the pension fund.
On the island of Guam, an initiative surfaced at the end of 2007 to allow slots at the Guam Greyhound Racetrack. The initiative went before the Supreme Court and was met with resistance by several groups claiming that the Guam Greyhound Racetrack was trying to set up a monopoly. The organization denied this and maintained they were not limiting anyone else from applying for licenses. A special election took place on 5 January 2008, in which voters denied approval for the slot machines at the racetrack.
Other issues regarding machines in Guam arose later that year, calling into question amusement devices.
In August 2008, the Guam government turned its attention toward Guam Music Inc. for allegedly operating over 550 illegal gaming machines on the island, and thus issued non-renewal notices for the licensing of those devices. Claiming the machines are legal, Guam Music Inc. filed a lawsuit to have the government reinstate its license. Due to a series of ongoing court actions by the company and government officials (including the Governor and the Director of the Department of Revenue and Taxation), an outcome has not been determined as more questions have surfaced regarding the legality of the machines, proper due process owed the company, and conflicts of interest within the government offices.
In the span of 12 years, despite the amount of activity by gambling proponents, only one facility has succeeded in gaining and holding its license for that length of time in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Nearly a decade after the passage of the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Act of 1989, the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino opened its doors on 25 April 1998. Unfortunately, since its opening the casino has not seen the number of tourists originally projected by its Hong Kong investors. Furthermore, of the three additional casino licenses issued to developers, the construction of two projects is on hold, and the third has been abandoned.
Still, casinos continued to be a sought-after solution for economic development and recovery. In late 2007, after the failure of numerous public initiatives, the island of Rota finally passed its gaming legislation.
On 3 November 2007, nearly 85% of Rota voters approved of casino gambling. Following the passage of the Rota Casino Act of 2007, the House of Representatives moved to appropriate USD 500,000 for the casino industry. Rota’s casino commission set a casino license application fee of up to USD 100,000 and an annual fee of USD 200,000.
Three years later, in October 2010, the Rota Treasure Island Casino commenced operations. However, it has faced struggle since its opening.
Observations by Senate President Paul A. Manglona, Ind.-Rota, indicated the lack of players is due to a lack in planning and resources for expanding tourism to the island, a major revenue source for the casino.
More recently, the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan further impacted the casino’s already meager numbers as reservations were postponed or canceled, and a regular charter flight between Japan and Rota discontinued its service.
The casino has been closed since 25 March 2011 due to renovations and a lack of clients.
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