Pacific Islands

Northern Marianas Islands governor Eloy S. Inos said he has been in talks with a group from South Korea and two sets of investors from Hong Kong about potentially building a casino on Saipan, according to reports. The Hong Kong investors include Mega Stars Overseas. Inos said the talks relate to investments of about $3 billion in tourism-related projects. A bill legalising gambling on the island was passed by the legislature last week as part of an effort by the government to raise revenue to close a pension-funding shortfall.

ONE Hundred Sands Ltd says geological testing of its potential casino site in Fiji had delayed the project, but work is now in full swing, according to media reports. Chairman Larry Claunch said the company has paid fines worth more than $800,000 for the delays in the project. “We wanted to let everyone know that we have the results from tests conducted giving us assurance that it is finally safe now to begin," reports cited Claunch as saying. "A casino is 50 times heavier than a normal building which meant a lot of testing had to be done underground first,” he said.

A bill legalizing casinos on all three main islands of the Northern Mariana islands was passed into law by Governor Eloy S. Inos, according to local media. The government passed the bill to help generate revenue to make up a shortfall in pension funding. Eloy said a 25 percent cut in pension provisions will be restored within 90 days. However, local media said the restoration of benefits will still depend on whether a casino investor makes a

Amax International says it signed a letter of intent to buy 60 percent of British Virgin Islands-based Forenzia Ltd, which has an interactive gaming license in Vanuatu. Amax said the acquisition will allow it to diversify its income stream and expand its gaming business. The purchase price will be set after the company carries out due diligence procedures.

The Senate has passed a bill legalising casinos on Saipan, after nixing the legislation four times in the past, according to reports. The bill will now go back to the governor’s desk to be signed. The bill was passed by a narrow 5 to 1 margin, the reports aid. The bill requires a minimum investment of $2 billion and the construction of a hotel with at least 2,000 rooms.

Northern Marianas Senate President Ralph Torres says a House bill legalizing casinos on Taipan, which was rejected in November, may be reintroduced. Torres said the bill is needed to raise revenue to restore funding for pensions. Lawmakers supporting the legalization of gambling say it's the only industry that could immediately pump millions into government coffers, just on the application fee and licence alone.

One Hundred Sands Chairman Larry Claunch says he has no comments in relation to a $290 million casino venture, which has yet to start, according to local media. He said the company is proceeding and will give details at a later date. Construction on the project has been delayed for several months. Fiji’s Attorney General and Tourism Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in December threatened to withdraw the company’s license unless work began soon.

Saipan Governor Eloy Inos has signed an amendment to a bill redefining a gambling device that will allow the operation of electronic gaming machines in hotels on Saipan. The law allows machines in hotels with at least 100 rooms. If they have less than 100 rooms they must be attached to a golf course. The government made the change as a revenue raising exercise. Casino gambling is only legal on Tinian and Rota.

One Hundred Sands said it will resume work on Fiji’s first casino resort on the island of Denarau. The company said that a US $100,000 fine will be paid to the government as a result of the delay, which was in breach of its contract. Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum reconfirmed the government would cancel the exclusivity agreement unless the company is able to demonstrate that construction will recommence shortly.

 

Tinian  congressman Trenton Conner filed a bill that would set a new tax rate of 5 percent on VIP gross gaming revenues from casinos on the island to try to attract more premium traffic.

The bill would would set the tax rate on mass market revenues at 15 percent. Tinian is currently home to only the troubleed Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino but other proejcts are in development.

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