In the Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands, casino operator Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited has reportedly declared that the first phase of its new Imperial Pacific Resort And Hotel Saipan will have its “soft opening” by March 31.

According to a report from the local Marianas Variety newspaper, a recent contractor’s report to the Commonwealth Casino Commission estimated that construction of the ground floor Saipan casino is now 47% complete while the development’s attached 350-suite hotel is expected to be open before the end of August.

Set to feature 200 to 300 gaming tables along with 300 to 400 slots, the $500 million Imperial Pacific Resort And Hotel Saipan was designed by architectural practice Steelman Partners and had been due to open “by 2017 Chinese New Year”, which began on January 28, but Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited was forced to extend this deadline following a series of delays.

Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited secured the exclusive casino license for the island of Saipan in August of 2015 via its Best Sunshine International Limited subsidiary before spending around $25 million to open the temporary Best Sunshine Live casino in an upscale former Garapan shopping mall two months later.

The Marianas Variety reported that Best Sunshine International Limited’s current lease agreement for the Best Sunshine Live facility is due to expire in April while Joseph Reyes, Vice-Chairman for the Commonwealth Casino Commission, recently urged Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited to extend this arrangement in case the opening of the much larger Imperial Pacific Resort And Hotel Saipan was beset by further delays caused by “a lot of factors” such as “bad weather”.

“My point is that [Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited] should start looking into the possibility because that possibility exists,” Reyes told the newspaper. “It should start addressing it now because everything takes time especially when it involves dealing with the government. [Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited] said it will be moving into the casino by late March but I don’t know if that will happen. We just have to make sure that we are on top of everything as this casino industry is important for the Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands economically.”

However, Donnie Browne, Operations Senior Vice-President for Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited, told the Marianas Variety that his firm would not be extending its lease for the site in the former shopping mall because the Imperial Pacific Resort And Hotel Saipan will open by the end of March.

“I think we are on the right track,” Ivan Blanco, a member of the Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands House Of Representatives, told the newspaper following a Thursday meeting with Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited. “Of course with the new industry there are always areas where we are unsure. We will encounter some barriers but this meeting is important because it helped us resolve some of the issues. We are seeing progress and [Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited] is moving forward and we are hopeful that things will move according to plan.”

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