The U.S. Department of Commerce says 2016’s real gross domestic product (GDP) for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. Pacific jurisdiction, grew by 28.6 percent year-on-year, fuelled by tourism, including visitors to a new casino facility on the main island, Saipan.
Exports of services was “the largest contributor” to CNMI’s economic growth in 2016, “reflecting significant growth in visitor spending, particularly on casino gambling”, said the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis in a Monday release.
Gaming services in CNMI are included in exports when calculating the territory’s GDP. That is in order to reflect expenditure by tourists in casino gambling.
The federal commerce department added that the number of visitors to CNMI grew by more than 10 percent in 2016, “primarily reflecting an increase in visitor arrivals from [South] Korea and China”.
Until July this year, Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd – the Hong Kong-listed Chinese investment firm behind the new casino – had been running a temporary facility called Best Sunshine Live.
That interim venue nonetheless managed to turn over US$32 billion for VIP gaming operations in 2016 alone, Imperial Pacific had said in a January filing. The permanent casino - Imperial Pacific Resort (pictured) – began operations on July 6 this year.
“Private fixed investment [in CNMI] increased over 60 percent in 2016, reflecting construction of the casino resort in Garapan and other hotel construction on Saipan,” said the federal commerce department.
In 2015 – prior to the ramp up of Imperial Pacific’s temporary Saipan casino venue – CNMI’s real GDP growth had been 3.8 percent.
The bureau said it expressed “real” GDP as an indicator net of price changes in the underlying local economy.
By comparison, real GDP for the U.S. – excluding its territories – had grown by only 1.5 percent in 2016 after increasing 2.9 percent in 2015, said the bulletin.
"The positive underlying contribution from each of our operating segments provides a strong start to the year"
Chief executive of lottery and gaming supplier IGT