The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ (CNMI) Lottery Commission has given Grand Mariana Casino & Hotel Resort’s parent company, Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific Holdings Ltd., permission to go live with their initial gaming facility on the Island of Saipan. Phase 1 will include 500 slot machines, 300 gaming tables, and fifty rooms.

Opening with only six baccarat tables, the anticipated temporary casino became the very first legal gambling facility in Saipan. Mark Brown, Chief Executive of Best Sunshine International Ltd stated that the event had a “very good turnout”, so much so that he added three additional tables to help facilitate the crowd.

The Saipan Tribune reported that even though the soft opening was not advertised, a large number of Chinese tourists occupied the tables, and every table was surrounded by curious onlookers and players awaiting a seat. The casino’s security, food and drink service, as well as dealers were mostly local residents and numbered about 150.

CNMI is a territory of the United States, and as such, Siapan’s casino must adhere to U.S. financial guidelines and oversight. CNMI lottery commission regulators are responsible for facilitating and administering those rules, and even have access to the counting rooms to oversee controls. In a recent filing, IPHL used language assuring investors and regulators alike their intent to operate within the legal confines of CNMI and U.S. law.

However, CNMI’s Lottery Commission failed to oversee appropriate filing protocols for a casino on another of the archipelago’s islands. In June, the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino was fined a record $75 million U.S. for failing to file required Bank Security Act reports designed to monitor for illegal money-laundering. The casino settled the judgment with a $3.04 million forfeiture agreement, and has since hired a consulting company to provide mandatory compliance guidance.

Imperial Pacific has committed to spend upwards of $7.1 billion U.S. on the development of the permanent Garapan Resort Casino on Saipan showcasing over 4,500 rooms and villas, 1,600 gaming tables, and 3,500 slot machines. It is planned for completion within sixteen months.

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