Best Sunshine International, Ltd. (BSI) is planning for the future in Saipan with an eye toward beginning to open Phase I of their permanent casino project prior to Chinese New Year 2017 (January 27– February 2, 2017) with a casino and some amenities at the Imperial Pacific Resort & Hotel Saipan (former working name: Grand Mariana Casino & Hotel Resort) near their current temporary casino in Garapan.

The second phase of the multi-billion dollar project will begin with acquiring the lease of the land now housing Mariana Resort & Spa when the current Kan Pacific lease runs out in 2018. BSI was the only firm to tender a request for proposal when the Department of Public Lands put out an RFP.

The road to lead position was not without obstacles as Saipan Entertainment LLC, which runs the Club 88 Mariana e-gaming venue located at Mariana Resort & Spa sued Kan Pacific and BSI in April for allegedly not informing them that Best Sunshine was in negotiations to purchase the resort. Department of Public Lands Secretary Marianne C. Teregeyo was also named in the suit which prompted $10.5 million in counterclaims from the DPL chief naming all parties. By May a settlement was reached which rendered the RFP free of potential litigation. In July, BSI made a bid for lease on the highly coveted seaside lands and the DPL issued an “Intent to Award” a lease on the 160-hectare (400 acre) property.

Kan Pacific has operated in Saipan for nearly 40 years. The Japanese family-owned business has deep ties to the community and was once a great magnet for Japanese tourism on the island, which has diminished significantly over the years. Marianas Resort general manager Gloria Cavangh told Saipan Tribune this summer that, “KPS is not leaving the CNMI but will branch out to other businesses within Saipan.” She added. “Saipan is the home of the Kitami family.”

Cavangh also noted, “IPI (Imperial Pacific, BSI’s parent co.) has expressed their willingness to absorb our valued employees. I hope for a smooth transition of that. There are very good people who have worked for us for many years with KPS. We are hopeful that this would benefit the whole of the CNMI.”

In a more recent report, BSI officials reportedly told the news outlet that Kan Pacific employees will have plenty of time to decide what they want to do before the lease becomes available in 2018. The Imperial Pacific Resort will open a year earlier and current Mariana Resort employees will have time to decide if they wish to go to work at Imperial Pacific. The resort may be hard pressed to fill hotel and other positions without them.

While precise plans for Phase II of Best Sunshine’s plans are still unclear, they are set to acquire a hotel with cottages, a small seaside golf course, country club, swimming pool, baseball field, other sports facilities and currently vacant lands on the massive parcel. Previously, BSI said that in addition to a casino, they planned to build the world’s largest water park, thousands of new hotel rooms, state-of-the-art shopping facilities, and more. Estimates for Imperial Pacific’s total investment in Saipan have reached as high as $7 billion.