Lawsuits that have hit the licensing process for a US$2 billion casino resort proposed for Saipan are hurting the public’s interest, an executive from Best Sunshine International Ltd, one the firms bidding for the permit, told local media.
A temporary restraining order issued on Thursday by the Superior Court in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) – a Pacific territory of the United States – prevents public officials from either denying or approving the issuance of a licence. The order has since been extended until further notice.
Lawyers for the other bidder, Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc, asked for the restraining order. Marianas Stars claims agents linked to Best Sunshine – a British Virgin Islands firm wholly owned by Macau casino junket investor First Natural Foods Holdings Ltd – “illegally” provided benefits to at least four local lawmakers in exchange for their support on a new casino law.
The court did not uphold a separate motion by local attorney Ramon K. Quichocho asking for the more restrictive legal remedy of a preliminary injunction – which would effectively have frozen all government activity related to the casino policy initiative.
Terence Tay, chief operating officer of Best Sunshine, didn’t address Marianas Stars’ allegation of “illegality” directly, but said of the litigation proceedings: “Basically this stops the process from moving forward and its stops the benefits [of a casino resort] from being given to the people.”
The local government has said it is seeking to develop the economy via taxes and revenues from a world-class gambling resort aimed at foreign tourists.
Mr Tay added: “Aside from the court process and the legality of it all, as far as we are concerned, nothing stops.
“We remain fully committed to what we have been saying [of the benefits] for the CNMI,” he added.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China