Alter City hints at temporary casino on Tinian

Alter City Group and the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission pose for a photo after a public hearing last Friday, in which the Tinian casino investors were approved a casino operator’s license. (Dennis B. Chan)

An Alter City Group executive hinted at exploring the option of a temporary or live-training casino facility, when sought for a reaction fresh off the approval of their casino operator’s license last Friday.

The temporary casino option immediately draws comparison to Saipan casino’s Best Sunshine International, Ltd.’s controversial live-gaming training facility in the T-Galleria mall.

As there are no Tinian gaming regulations that speak to this issue, the Tinian Gaming Act will need amendment, Saipan Tribune learned. The Gaming Act is specific about the requirement of a casino operating in a hotel-casino complex, and having a certain number of hotel rooms. It is also specific that gaming activities be limited to the approved area of a casino.

Sought for his thoughts after the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission approved their casino operator’s license—that came stapled with 18 conditions—managing director Ken Lin noted that they’ve gone through such a process before.

“When we got the land [lease], you asked me how I feel, when we got the [coastal resource management permit], you asked me how I feel. I think it is the same thing.”

“It’s just—we are happy for a couple of hours—and then the work starts,” he added.

Lin said that even if they do not have the casino yet, it is important to start doing business because “it’s a commitment for us to show the community that we are here to stay.”

“We won’t just have a piece of paper living in our drawers for the next few days. We want to get that going. Hopefully, we can use that to explore the options—such as a temporary casino or the training center here on Tinian—and get that industry back again.”

Lin also welcomed the investigation fee of $50,000 that the commission handed them on Friday, on top of other investigation fees that they have already paid.

He said they also have put down $500,000 for the annual license fee, after being approved on Friday, and were excited and “more than confident” to meet the 18 conditions on their license.

“The key” for a casino is “transparency,” he said.

Still, when prodded, Lin would not compare themselves to Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino and its previous casino operators.

“We are different. I think we will be judged [differently] by the people,” Lin said.

Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas said he looks forward to ACG’s plans progressing, so the people of Tinian would benefit from their investment.

“This gets the ball rolling,” San Nicolas said.

“This is just a conditional license. This is a first step for them to get their final license,” commission chair Esther Barr also said. “We feel confident” with the conditions set.

“Hopefully, we’ll see the groundbreaking in three years.”

When asked, Barr disclosed they have about two more casino applicants pending.

Barr said Tinian Entertainment Company—the new owners of the Tinian Dynasty—has also put in a casino application. “We are in the process of investigation now.”

Barr also told Saipan Tribune that a Donald Hofschneider was the commission’s acting executive director, after the commission terminated former executive director Lucy Blanco-Maratita’s contract two weeks ago.

Conditions
Follows is a summary of several of the conditions attached to ACG’s license:

• No director, shareholders, investors, representative, designee, or agent of ACG Inc. will have any direct or indirect involvement in day-to-day management or decision-making process of the casino or exercise any influence over the day to day management of the casino operations unless first license as casino operator by the commission.

• ACG Inc. must undergo formal training by qualified and casino management by approved company by gaming commission prior to seeking casino operator license.

• If not licensed to operate, ACG shall execute a casino management agreement with an experienced casino operator to be approved by commission, who has a proven track record of gaming and regulatory compliance with U.S. code. Management team must be identified and reported to commission no later than nine months before anticipated opening of the casino to conduct investigation.

• ACG must identify and submit application forms and investigation fees for all business entities and persons who will be involved in management of casino operations, no less than 180 days prior to the commencement of the operation of the casino.

• Upon commencement of operation of the casino, ACG must organize and maintain a compliance committee of at least one independent member who oversees investments into the casino operations and reveal source of funds and proposed investors, committee will monitor all asset and regulatory compliance of ACG and its affiliates. ACG shall submit a compliance committee plans to the executive director for proposal at least 90 days prior to the casino operation.

• ACG or its designated casino operator must submit a floor plan of the casino, diagram…and other system, catwalk or alternative security system to commission for approval, no less than 180 days prior to opening of casino.

• ACG or designee must submit a drawing of all chips and tokens to the commission for approval no less than 120 days prior to casino. ACG shall not purchase chips or cards from manufactured distributor other than approved by the commission.

• ACG or designee shall submit a system of internal controls for approval, no later than 120 days prior to commencement of operations.

• ACG shall always be in compliance with all requirements in Tinian gaming act and other Commonwealth and federal laws.

• ACG must submit to the commission division of enforcement all current financial statements within 120 days following the issuance of casino operator’s license. Within 120 days, ACG must to the satisfaction of the executive director by Jan. 4 2016, shall submit to the commission evidence of verifiable source to funds used to the date as proposed for the development of operations to the casino, ACG shall provide request documents to support the wealth of Ken Leong and Ken Lin. Failure to adequately respond to this request shall result in suspension the commission’s approval of the ACG until such time as adequate documentation.

• ACG must organize a compliance committee with at least one independent member to initially oversee investment in the project and reveal source of funds and proposed investors.

• Upon receiving license, ACG shall deposit for investigative purposes the amount of $50,000. These funds will be in the form of cash or cash equivalent.

• Chair Ken Leong and managing director Ken Lin must be found suitable as shareholders of ACG and be qualified to the standards of the casino act.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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