A Korean businessman maintained that Rep. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) is sitting on a proposed local casino bill which the latter does not understand, causing delays on a good casino project that could boost the economy of the southern island and the CNMI in general.
Jae Hong, vice president of JMSH, LLC which owns Rota Resort & Country Club, said in an email that Santos' “baseless misunderstanding” stems from her absence in any of the meetings and seminars hosted throughout last year to clarify the matter.
Hong's company announced in September 2012 their plans to build the $170-million casino and hotel project inside the Rota Resort & Country Club but noted that “small issues” regarding existing casino rules and regulations get in the way of the start of project construction.
Santos, in a letter published in local newspapers last Friday, claimed that the proposed casino bills forwarded to her for introduction are not in the best interest of the people of Rota and against the spirit of the Rota Casino Act of 2007 as it seeks to lower the gambling revenue tax and the gross gaming revenue for specific promotional costs.
However, Hong argued that the purpose of the amendment bill is to correct the definition of Gross Revenue in the law and not to reduce the casino tax from 10 percent to 3.3 percent.
“It's not fair and right to challenge the ratified casino tax rate by reducing it to 3.3 percent. But every language is not perfect. The definition of Gross Revenue is not in accordance with general casino industry language. It needs to be corrected,” Hong told Saipan Tribune.
He disclosed that meetings were scheduled last year, including a special seminar requested by Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola which featured a third party casino expert invited at cost to explain the casino industry and casino terminology.
Hong noted that concerned parties like the casino commissioners, the mayor, senators, and administrators attended the seminar, but not Santos. He said he personally requested a meeting with the lawmaker but was rejected.
“Nobody-no people, no politicians, no administration officials, and no investors-mentioned tax reduction, except for Rep. Santos who has never attended any meeting or seminars in this matter, either intentionally or negligently,” he said.
“Rep. Santos, the one who is supposed to work together with local people, does not understand the context of the bill and is not up to date with the current issue,” added Hong.
He emphasized that the people of Rota approved the establishment of the casino industry in the southernmost island of the Northern Marianas to create hundreds of new jobs and infuse millions of dollars in taxes to stimulate the local economy.
“Rota Casino Act was ratified in 2007, but there's no casino on Rota, yet,” said Hong. “Ultimately, it's a sad story.”
According to Hong, Santos should have thought about the people of Rota first rather than being political.
Just a small communication can solve a conflict and most of misunderstanding. Big opportunity starts from a small talk, too,” he added.