Two Hong Kong-based companies have made last-minute bids in the Northern Marianas for an exclusive licence to develop a casino on Saipan.
The government confirmed it had received applications from Marianas Stars Entertainment Incorporated and Best Sunshine International Limited. Each has paid the US$1m, non-refundable application fee The two groups have up to May the 5 to deposit $30m to be considered for the licence. The Lottery Commission is to vote on which of the applications is successful by June 19 although a Macau-based gaming consultant will help review the proposals.
Best Sunshine International is a wholly-owned subsidiaries of First Natural Foods Holdings whilst Marianas Stars Entertainment is partly owned by Mega Stars Overseas; the new owner of Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino in the North Marianas.
Any plans will need to include a hotel-resort with at least 2,000 rooms and an initial investment of $2bn. The author of the bill, Ralph Demapan, who is also the floor leader of the House, claims that with the government being forced to pay into a retirement settlement fund, the casino concept could carry more weight as it would be used to prop up the fund.
Pensions have recently been slashed by 25 per cent, which Mr. Demapan believes will see the casino legislation be approved this time round. This will be the fourth time in recent years that the government has tried to bring in casinos to Saipan.