Guam needs to approve casinos to remain competitive: academic

The Pacific Island of Guam needs to approve casinos to avoid losing its tourists to the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, where gambling is permitted on Saipan, Tinian and Rota, a leading academic warned.

“We need to use a special request for proposal (RFP) process to get the best deal possible from a single vendor for at least 15 years,” University of Guam Associate Professor Ron McNinch wrote in a local newspaper.

“We should contract with a major international casino with the proceeds going to education and health care. Get over it. Otherwise, we will default many of our tourists to the CNMI. Don’t get me wrong, I love the CNMI, but this is a disruptive change issue,” he wrote.

“Unless Guam wants its airline seats to dry up and go north, see what I am saying with an objective view. Go casino big or not. But at some point this will have to be an important public discussion.”

CNMI awarded a single casino license for Saipan to Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International in 2015, while the defunct Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino is seeking new investors. Two other licenses have been granted for Tinian – Alter City Group and Bridge Investment Group LLC.

Tourism numbers to the CNMI recorded a new high in last year, rising by 24.3 percent to 659,741. Korea was the number one source market with a 50.4 percent market share and strong growth of 65.81 percent for the year. In second place was Mainland China with growth at just over 11 percent.