CASINO

Rota gaming regulators sued for revoking casino operator license

TAGs: Northern Mariana Islands, rota, saipan, snm corp

Rota gaming regulators sued for revoking casino operator licenseSaipan’s casino regulators aren’t making things easy for junket operators looking to steer VIP gamblers to the island’s only casino.

On Wednesday, the Saipan Tribune reported that the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) had returned the applications of some of the 18 junkets looking to do business with Imperial Pacific International’s Best Sunshine Live casino.

The CCC issued its first provisional junket license last month to South Korea’s Big Bang Entertainment and said it welcomed other junket applicants. But CCC exec director Edward Deleon Guerrero now says that some of the applications failed to provide the requested information, leaving the CCC no choice but to “turn them back.” Guerrero said some of these rejected applicants had already resubmitted their applications.

ROTA REVOCATION SPARKS LAWSUIT
Elsewhere in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), regulators on the island of Rota have been hit with a lawsuit for abruptly revoking an operator’s conditional gaming license.

On July 15, the Rota Casino Gaming Commission (RCGC) held a ‘special meeting’ at which it determined that the five-year conditional license issued in 2011 to SNM Corp had expired. SNM planned to build a casino on the grounds of the Rota Resort and Country Club (pictured).

The casino was never built, and the RCGC’s resolution states that “there is still no casino and there is no evidence that anything is being done on this casino project.” The resolution also stated that the project “has not served the interest of our community.”

SNM, which is led by South Korea’s Hee Kyun Cho, paid a total of $400k for its license in 2013. Under the Rota Casino Act of 2007, SNM maintains that a casino license only takes effect once the fee is paid, meaning SNM’s license should be valid for another two years.

SNM said it received a letter from the RCGC on July 1 alerting SNM that its license was to expire on July 15. The letter stated that SNM could extend the license for another five years at a cost of $450k or a single-year extension for $150k.

But SNM’s lawsuit claims it was never given the opportunity to attend the July meeting to argue its position and only learned of the RCGC’s decision on Oct. 4. SNM says the RCGC’s meeting violated Rota’s Open Government Act and thus any decision made at that meeting should be null and void.

Like its fellow CNMI residents on Tinian, Rota hasn’t had much luck getting its casino business off the ground. The island used to host the Rota Treasure Island Casino & Hotel, but it closed in 2012. The property’s president, Japanese junket operator Watanabe Masahiro, made noise last year about reopening the property but little has been heard about it since.

In March, South Korea’s IH Group announced plans to build a 1,100-room hotel and casino on Rota that boasted an eye-popping budget of $10b, although the first phase would require only $1b. This project also appears to have dropped off the radar.

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