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Consultants contracts ‘no more than $400K’

Brief portion of Best Sunshine’s presentation today open to public
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The two U.S.-based international consulting and investigation/management service groups that the Lottery Commission hired for a total of “no more than $400,000” presented yesterday on Capital Hill about their expertise and expectations in reviewing the remaining application for a license to exclusively develop a minimum $2 billion casino resort on Saipan. Only at least one member of the general public other than the media showed up before and after the executive session.

Commission chair Sixto Igisomar hopes that members of the public would take the time to listen directly to a brief portion of applicant Best Sunshine International Ltd.’s presentation at their 1pm meeting today.

Igisomar asks that the public not “grill” or question Best Sunshine about its background and plans as those will be discussed during the executive session with the commission’s consultants.

Igisomar also told Saipan Tribune that the total amount of contracts with casino investigator B2G Global Strategies and gaming consultant The Innovation Group of Companies is “no more than $400,000.”

This is a portion of the $2 million in nonrefundable application fee that Best Sunshine and Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc. paid.

The rest will be used by the Gaming Commission in formulating the regulations and other organizational matters, among other things.

The commission rejected on Thursday the application of Marianas Stars, citing its failure to deposit in escrow $30 million by the May 5 deadline. Marianas Stars is considering filing a protest or a lawsuit over its application’s rejection.

Igisomar, also the Department of Commerce secretary, said the Lottery Commission is moving forward.

The Lottery Commission has until June 19 to decide whether or not to grant an exclusive Saipan casino license to Best Sunshine.

Best Sunshine is a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of First Natural Foods Holdings Ltd., which is proposing to change its name to Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd.

For years, any Saipan casino bill from the House of Representatives was dead on arrival at the Senate. That changed this year. Saipan voters also twice rejected casinos when the question was placed on the ballot.

Elected officials said times have changed, and the CNMI needs to find a new revenue source to meet its growing obligations, including restoring retirees’ 25-percent deferred pension. This is a general election year in the CNMI.

The $30 million in two-year advance casino license is supposed to be the source of funding for the deferred pension’s restoration along with the payment of interest on certain withdrawn retirement contributions.

Casino investigator

Lottery Commission members Igisomar, Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson, Public Safety Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero, and Deputy Attorney General Gil Birnbirch, along with counsel Jim Stump and assistant attorney general Reena Patel received a presentation by principals of B2G Global Strategies and The Innovation Group of Companies in the governor’s main conference room.

The B2G Global Strategies’ team that is currently on Saipan is composed of chief operating officer Steven L. Gomez, a former FBI special agent-in-charge with 25 years investigative experience, along with lead investigator John Bruce, a business intelligence and integrity risk operations expert.

Lottery Commission chair Sixto Igisomar, left, gestures as he talks to members of the consulting and investigations firm B2G Global Strategies, which the commission hired to look into the remaining applicant for an exclusive Saipan casino license. From left, Igisomar, B2G Global Strategies lead investigator for the CNMI project John Bruce, chief operating officer/project manager Steven L. Gomez, and retired senior special Drug Enforcement Administration agent “Doc” Murdock. (Haidee V. Eugenio)

Lottery Commission chair Sixto Igisomar, left, gestures as he talks to members of the consulting and investigations firm B2G Global Strategies, which the commission hired to look into the remaining applicant for an exclusive Saipan casino license. From left, Igisomar, B2G Global Strategies lead investigator for the CNMI project John Bruce, chief operating officer/project manager Steven L. Gomez, and retired senior special Drug Enforcement Administration agent “Doc” Murdock. (Haidee V. Eugenio)

The team includes retired senior special Drug Enforcement Administration agent “Doc” Murdock, currently a Saipan resident.

For the CNMI project, the B2G Global Strategies team’s goal is to “conduct comprehensive due diligence and background investigation to ensure suitability, integrity, and ethical financial dealings of proposed developer.”

“We have the ability to customize a team of experts, depending on what the client needs,” Gomez told the Lottery Commission yesterday. “This is an excellent example, this project here in the Commonwealth…”

Gomez is B2G’s project manager for the CNMI project, with president Tim McNally as project advisor; Bruce as lead investigator; Frank Schreck as special adviser; and Lisa Garcia, Julie Quinn, and Katherine Williams as analysts/researchers.

“We approach every case…with integrity, with independence and objectivity. We are not bound to make any type of decision. We look for the truth, research the facts, provide our analysis based on that information and then present those results to the commission…” Gomez told commissioners.

B2G is an international consulting and investigations firm specializing in a wide range of services including security consulting, due diligence investigations, and strategic solutions for the business sector and government entities in the United States, Asia, Latin America, and Europe.

Gaming consultant

The Innovation Group of Companies team currently in the CNMI is composed of president Michael Soll and Joel Rittvo, director of architecture design. The Innovation Group is an international provider of consulting and management services for the gaming, hospitality, leisure, and entertainment industries.

Soll has worked for global entertainment operators including as vice president-casinos at Hard Rock Café International Inc., vice president-planning and development at Caesars Entertainment, and director of asset management at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Rittvo has more than 25 years of design, construction, and project management experience.

Under the laws that authorized casino gaming on Saipan, the holder of the exclusive Saipan casino license is required to invest at least $2 billion in a casino resort with at least 2,000 guest rooms.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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