Saipan casino saga continues with amendments to bill

    The Northern Mariana Islands’ House of Representatives has repealed a bill to allow casinos on the island of Saipan and re-enacted the legislation with amendments to correct ambiguities, The Saipan Times said.
    The amended bill awards full power to the Lottery Commission to issue a license and designates the Lottery Commission’s chairman as the expenditure authority for the application fees.
    Two companies are currently competing for a license to build a $2 billion resort on the island, though the process has become mired in legal wrangling.
    Marianas Stars Entertainment, one of the two bidders, had sought a preliminary injunction to stop the decision-making process, claiming the bill was flawed. In particular, the company said it had issues with the fact the Lottery Commission would be given power to award the license, claiming it was open to bias. The injunction was denied by the CNMI’s Superior Court.
    The other bidder, Best Sunshine International’s parent company, Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific, had counter-claimed that its interests would be harmed if the injunction were granted.
    The government is keen to push through the bill to generate revenue to fill a pension-funding shortfall. The newspaper reported that about a dozen retirees testified in favour of the passage of the amended bill, which has now gone to the Senate for approval later this week.