The owner of the Rota Resort & Country Club aims to become a big player in the gaming industry with plans to build a $170 million casino and hotel that industry leaders and government officials tout as a welcome development for the southern island in the Northern Marianas.
JMSH, LLC executives said Friday that the Rota Casino & Hotel project aims to attract tourists from China, Japan, and Korea.
Hee Cho, president of JMSH, LLC, which is also a major real estate developer in Guam, said in a news briefing held at the Plumeria Conference Room of the Rota Resort & Country Club that the project involves the construction of over 700 resort rooms to accommodate guests at the casino.
The project is divided into two phases, both confined within Rota Resort & Country Club's sprawling acreage. The resort currently houses a hotel, an 18-hole championship golf course, swimming pool, massage facility, two restaurants, laundry facility, and nursery.
Phase I would involve building the first 200 rooms of the hotel and the actual casino with the initial gaming tables and slot machines-all for a price tag of $70 million. Phase II would encompass the construction of 500 rooms worth another $100 million.
This proposed investment is expected to rake in some $15 to $25 million in tax income, and additional $15 to $20 million in other industries within three years of opening.
The project is also expected to generate 1,000 jobs within the hotel and casino itself and an additional 1,000 indirect jobs.
“I cannot find any better place for tourism than Rota,” said Cho, describing the island as peaceful, clean, beautiful, and friendly.
Project construction can begin at once, according to JMSH, but plans are hinged on the local and central government and their capability and willingness to work on and address various issues associated with a development project of this magnitude, particularly a workable airport to bring in hundreds of thousands of tourists and an operational seaport to bring in commodities.
“We could invest billions of dollars here but if people cannot come, what good is it? That's why the airport is so critical. If you're an island, transportation is everything,” vice president Jae H. Hong emphasized in an interview after the press briefing.
About 40 individuals representing JMSH executives, Rota officials, and local and visiting representatives from at least three leading Korean tour operators attended Friday's event, and all agree not just on the island's potential as a gaming frontrunner in the Pacific but also on the issue of transportation as the project's biggest hurdle.
Cho said they are looking at bringing in 9-seater aircrafts between Saipan and Rota as well as Rota and Guam. He also disclosed that Fly Marianas eyes operating daily flights between Guam and Narita and Haneda in Japan, several flights a week to Osaka, Nagoya, Beijing, and Shanghai.
Local leaders said they will work hard to move this project forward.
Senate President Paul Manglona said he would seek the cooperation of federal agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the Office of Insular Affairs to find available funding to address the issue on the Rota Airport runway, which could also bring in direct airlines to the island.
“This is an exciting time for Rota,” added Manglona.
Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola said the Rota Casino & Hotel project will be “economically vital” to the CNMI and would encourage potential tourists from Asian countries-all within the Commonwealth's reach.
“We want to open our doors to welcome them because tourism is the main source of our economy,” he said.