The Lottery Commission of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) has granted an exclusive casino licence to Best Sunshine International Ltd, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd.
Imperial Pacific – an investor in the profit stream of Macau VIP operator Hengsheng Group – said in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Tuesday its subsidiary has been granted the licence on Saipan.
Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc was the other bidder in the process.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the outcome,” Sean King of business advisory firm Park Strategies LLC and consultant for Marianas Stars, told GGRAsia.
“But now that the Lottery Commission has awarded an exclusive licence on Saipan, we’ll want to make sure our investment on Tinian remains economically viable,” he added.
Mr King was referring to the casino investment in neighbouring Tinian Island made by Hong Kong-based Mega Stars Overseas Ltd, the parent company of Mariana Stars.
Best Sunshine was chosen on a vote of 4-0, the Saipan Tribune newspaper reported. Sixto Igisomar, chairman of the four-member Lottery Commission, could not be immediately reached for comment outside regular business hours.
The 40-year licence was granted “conditional upon agreement between the CNMI and the applicant on licence terms and conditions,” Imperial Pacific said in Tuesday’s statement.
Representatives of Best Sunshine shall now meet and discuss with officials of the Lottery Commission in order to finalise the terms and conditions for the award of the casino licence, it added.
Imperial Pacific – formerly known as First Natural Foods Holdings Ltd – suspended trade in its shares on Tuesday. Trading shall resume on Wednesday morning, it said.
Last Friday, a bill to fix the ambiguities in the Saipan casino law was signed into law. The law fully empowered the Lottery Commission to award a licence.
Tuesday’s decision followed a presentation on Monday in which two U.S.-based consultants separately recommended Best Sunshine over Marianas Stars, the Saipan Tribune reported.
Best Sunshine shall make an initial investment of at least US$2 billion to build a multi-phase casino resort with 2,000 rooms. The company plans to build four luxury hotels, which will include “both private gaming rooms and public facilities”, Imperial Pacific had said in previous filings.
Imperial Pacific had said before it would distribute cash vouchers totalling US$10 million among all locally born adults in Saipan if it won a casino licence there.
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”We expect Goa to quickly become a US$1 billion market as it transitions to land-based casinos (from US$150 million today), which is still just a fraction of India’s total GGR potential of US$10 billion to US$17 billion”
Analyst at Union Gaming Securities Asia