The House Committee on Commerce and Tourism was told by the Commonwealth Casino Commission on Tuesday that it’s not the appropriate time to impose a tax of 10 percent on the local casino industry in Saipan.
An exclusive casino license is held by Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd on the main island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The company is the parent company to Best Sunshine International Ltd., which has been operating its US$25-million temporary casino at the T-Galleria on Beach Road in Garapan since July 26, 2015, with 45 tables becoming available in November that year.
During Tuesday’s meeting, which was requested by Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, the chairman of the Tourism Committee, questions from House members were fielded by Commission Executive Director Edward Deleon Guerrero and legal counsel Mike Ernest regarding the 10 percent tax proposed by Rep. Edmund S. Villagomez. Guerrero told lawmakers that Best Sunshine is already paying business gross revenue (BGRT) taxes, an exclusive license fee, regulatory fees and gross gaming tax, as reported by the Marianas Variety. Referencing the Grand Mariana Casino and Hotel Resort currently under construction, Guerrero reportedly said to lawmakers, “Let’s give them a year after the Grand Mariana is completed,” before acting on the measure.
According to the parent company’s regulatory filings, a rolling chip monthly turnover average of US$2.25 billion has been achieved by the temporary casino for VIP table games in the first six months of this year. Best Sunshine Live’s temporary casino’s June tally was $US1.66 billion in rolling chip volume for the month of June, according to their voluntary monthly filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Construction of Best Sunshine’s US$500-million Grand Mariana casino resort began in July 2015 and according to the company, will include 15 villas, 350 hotel rooms, upwards of 200 gaming tables, more than 400 slot machines, a beach club, several restaurants, and a night club. The Grand Mariana is slated to open a casino by the end of this year, with the accompanying hotel opening at the end of 2017’s first quarter.
According to the gaming commission, to date, the BGRT collected from Best Sunshine totals $27.8 million. The investment by Best Sunshine combined with increased tourist numbers have been credited with the revival of the local economy, which since 1998 has been stagnant.