Gov. Ralph Torres has defended the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands’ (CNMI) reliance on the casino industry as its primary cash cow.
Torres came under fire as critics demand the governor to look for other means to improve CNMI’s revenue, according to the Saipan Tribune.
But the governor shrugged off the concerns of his critics, saying that the casino industry has created a positive domino effect in the CNMI. Since the establishment of the casino industry on the Pacific island, Torres pointed out that there had been an influx of tourists in CNMI.
The casino, according to Torres, also brought other investments to CNMI.
“Now property value has increased. Now tourism has doubled,” Torres said, according to the news report.
The biggest casino operator in CNMI is Imperial Pacific International (IPI). According to the Commonwealth Casino Commission, IPI earned over $1 billion in gross gaming revenue from January to July 2017.
The casino operator, for its part, paid the Commonwealth government a total of $53.4 million for the January to July 2017 period. This alone, according to Torres, should prove that the casino is not just one industry but a “huge one.”
Critics of Torres argued recently that CNMI’s continued reliance on the casino industry is a risky gamble. The casino industry may had helped the CNMI government to pay the weekly $1 million Settlement Fund but critics say it will be best for Saipan to diversify.
Joyce C. H. Tang, the Settlement Fund trustee representative, echoed the same warning against too much reliance on the casino industry during her presentation before the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Wednesday.
In her report on the operation of the Settlement Fund from fiscal year 2016 through the third quarter of fiscal year 2017, Tang pointed out that it remains uncertain whether the casino industry may be able to sustain the revenues it have now in the future.