After numerous failed attempts in the past, the self-governed US territory of Saipan has finally welcomed casinos into its island after governor Eloy Inos signed the Saipan Casino Bill into law. Then, days after that, amendments to the fresh law were passed to tack on new provisions, specifically on how casino-related funding will be used in the future.
There’s no denying that it’s been a hectic few weeks in Saipan and the country’s quest to legalize casinos in an attempt to jumpstart certain sections of the US territory’s struggling economy. In the end, it was smooth sailing for the HB 18-179, the original casino bill that officially opened casino gambling for all the three main islands of the Northern Marianas. The bill still passed and signed into law despite carrying a cover note with recommendations of changes to apply in an amendment bill. That bill, specifically HB 18-182 was proposed a few days later and didn’t waste time getting passed, winning on 13-7 senate vote.
As part of these amendments, issues on pension cut provisions, payment of interest on retirement contribution withdrawals, tax rebate restoration, tax benefits for the exclusive casino licensee, lower utility rates and land compensation were all addressed, answering all the changes that were agreed upon by governor Inos and the Northern Marianas senate.
With all the flurry of movement and decisions made in the past couple of weeks, those who supposed the casino bill can now take comfort knowing that certain issues affecting the bill, including the restoration of a previous pension cut for retirees is now set to take into effect within 90 days. In addition to that, the new law also calls for 80 percent of casino license fees and gaming taxes to be used in rebuilding the territory’s retirement fund while also assist in subsidizing utility costs for residents.
Moving forward, Inos isn’t wasting any time putting into motion the new law. The governor is already in talks with a group from South Korea and a pair of Hong Kong investors, including Mega Stars Overseas to gauge their interest in building a casino in Saipan. Expect more operators to be added into the mix of discussions to secure that to secure that exclusive license that will be granted to one major operator who will be required to invest a minimum $2 billion into the project.