Edward Deleon Guerrero, executive director of the Commonwealth Casino Commission on Saipan, says the regulator will not be setting a limit on the number of junket operators allowed to do business on Saipan. The main island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has issued an exclusive casino licence to a unit of Hong Kong-listed gaming investor Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd.
Mr Guerrero said the commission’s stance would not change once the Imperial Pacific Resort (pictured in a rendering) opens in early 2017. Imperial Pacific Resort – previously referred to in filings as having the name Grand Mariana Casino and Hotel Resort – is being developed by Imperial Pacific. The property is due to open by Chinese New Year 2017.
Imperial Pacific currently has a temporary casino at Garapan. The casino licence was granted to Best Sunshine International Ltd, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-listed company.
The group’s temporary casino had a total of 16 VIP gaming tables and 32 mass tables at the end of June. The casino recorded rolling chip volume of about US$1.55 billion in August, the firm said in a filing.
On Tuesday the Saipan Tribune newspaper quoted Mr Guerrero as saying that junket operators “are a necessary part of the gaming industry”, as Saipan competes against Macau and Singapore.
“[There will be] No number [limit] for the junket operators,” Mr Guerrero was quoted as saying by the media outlet.
“The live training facility that currently operates only has five VIP rooms, but when the Grand Mariana opens, it will have a bigger number of VIP rooms to accommodate those who come here to play,” he was additionally cited as saying.
Imperial Pacific had stated in an August 2014 filing that it was required to pay an annual Casino Resort Developer Licence fee of US$15 million during the term of the licence. It added the fee would be adjusted every five years to account for cumulative increases in consumer price inflation.
In July this year, representatives of the Commonwealth Casino Commission on Saipan said that imposing an additional levy on the local casino industry – in the form of a 10 percent tax on casino gaming revenue – would not be appropriate at present, reported the Marianas Variety newspaper.
The commission’s executive director reportedly said in comments quoted on Tuesday by the Saipan Tribune: “Right now Saipan is the fifth… favourite destination by Chinese tourists and we are also fifth in the casino gaming world behind Macau, Las Vegas, Singapore, and the Philippines. Now we are on the world map.”
Saipan’s gaming regulator has already issued a provisional licence to South Korea-based junket operator Big Bang Entertainment. Mr Guerrero told the Saipan Tribune that the regulator is currently reviewing 17 applications for junket licences. He did not identify any of the applicants.
“All the applicants are still under review. We have implemented additional review process, where we work with the casino operator to have them vet the junket operators too,” said Mr Guerrero.
Management of Imperial Pacific told GGRAsia in an interview in May that the Saipan casino would be able to offer casino junkets a better deal under the VIP gambling sector’s revenue sharing system than is typically available in Macau. The latter jurisdiction has an effective 40 percent tax on casino gross gaming revenue.
The Morgan Stanley banking group said in a report on September 12 that global VIP casino gambling revenue – excluding Macau – increased by 27 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2016, after two years of contraction. The institution said that new casinos – including the one in Saipan – drove part of the growth seen in the three months to June 30.
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Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China