Tinian approves online gambling by licensed casinos


tinian-casinos-online-gamblingPoliticians on the island of Tinian have approved legislation that will allow locally licensed casino operators to offer online gambling, but finding qualified applicants may prove difficult.

On Friday, Rep. Edwin Aldan’s House Local Bill 20-30 was unanimously approved by the Tinian and Aguigan Legislative Declaration, leaving only a signature by Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Gov. Ralph Torres to become law.

A report in the Marianas Variety indicated that the bill would amend the Revised Tinian Casino Gaming Control Act of 1989 to allow licensed casino operators to lawfully provide online gambling, provided the casino licensee operates a hotel offering a minimum of 300 rooms.

Interested operators would pay an annual fee of $300k for the right to offer online gambling, while paying 5% tax on their gross online gambling revenue on a monthly basis.

Operators would also have to employ geolocation software to limit online gambling activity to “within intra-island borders of the Second Senatorial District and between jurisdictions where the conduct of internet gaming is legal.”

These restrictions make it unlikely that Tinian will find many takers, at least in the near term, given that there aren’t any casino operators that currently meet the stipulated criteria for applying for an online license.

Tinian’s casino industry hasn’t experienced the runaway success of Imperial Pacific International’s operations on Saipan. The Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino shut down in 2015 after US financial watchdog FinCEN levied a $75m fine on its owners after uncovering shoddy anti-money laundering compliance.

Tinian Entertainment Corp (TEC) acquired the mothballed Tinian Dynasty’s operations in mid-2016, but plans to reopen the property hit a snag after FinCEN demanded that the new owners honor the unpaid $75m fine, which TEC found unfair.

Bridge Investment Group (BIG) launched an online petition in February to convince the government to grant it the concessions the company deemed necessary to get its $130m Tinian Ocean Resort and Casino project off the drawing board. But to date, the petition has failed to reach its modest goal of 500 ‘yes’ votes and the project appears no closer to reality.

In February 2016, the Macau-based Alter City Group received a conditional gaming license from Tinian regulators and the company held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its $1.2b Plumeria Golf & Casino Resort project that June. Actual construction was supposed to start later that year, but the latest update has now pegged construction to start sometime in Q2 2018.