Marianas Stars, Best Sunshine still in the running for casino license
Even before yesterday’s issuance of a temporary restraining order on any casino license application approval or denial, the Lottery Commission already announced at the beginning of their 2pm meeting that they don’t have a decision yet to grant an exclusive license to develop a minimum $2-billion integrated casino resort on Saipan to anyone. That’s because the commission received only a “preliminary report” from its consultants and still has some “housekeeping” matters to do.
The commission has until about July 1 “or” whenever the investigations into the applications have been completed based on Public Law 18-43, despite previous government statements of a June 19 deadline to decide.
Lottery Commission chair Sixto Igisomar clarified that as of yesterday, both Best Sunshine International Ltd. and Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc.’s applications are still under review.
Officials and consultants from both Marianas Stars and Best Sunshine were at the commission meeting.
It was Marianas Stars that requested a court TRO, but its officials didn’t say anything during the Lottery Commission meeting’s public comment period that they were in the process of seeking a TRO. Igisomar repeatedly said at the beginning of the meeting there was no decision to be made.
Meanwhile, the “preliminary report” that the Lottery Commission got from the consultants was inconclusive and does not yet rank which one has a better application or who is more suitable to be granted a license between Marianas Stars and Best Sunshine.
Besides Igisomar, the three other commissioners present were Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson, Deputy Attorney General Gil Birnbrich, and Department of Public Safety’s Capt. Pete Leon Guerrero. Their counsels were also present.
“I assure you and the public, the entire CNMI, that we will not be making any decision unless we are firm in our given task. And we’ll cross our T’s and dot our I’s and there are items that we’ve discussed in the past within this commission and our intention is to make sure that we have a checklist within this commission to make sure that we go over that checklist and make sure we verify that every possible item that we’ve discussed in the past are in place…” Igisomar said at the beginning of the meeting.
However, during the commission’s executive session, Marianas Stars counsel Sean Frink tried to talk to commission counsel Jim Stump with documents in his hands.
Moments later on Capital Hill, it was learned that Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued a TRO stopping Gov. Eloy S. Inos and the CNMI government from either denying or approving any casino license.
Wiseman issued the order after Marianas Stars requested a TRO, claiming that it will be irreparably harmed if such order is not issued pending a resolution of its lawsuit.
The TRO, along with two lawsuits and referendum petitions, could further push back the entire Saipan casino license application process.
Retirees are supposed to receive their deferred 25 percent pension from the $30 million advance casino license from a winning casino license applicant, and so do active government employees waiting for payment of the interest earned on their retirement contributions withdrawn last year.
Public Law 18-43, signed on April 1, states that the Lottery Commission must act to deny or approve applications “within 90 days after this Act is signed into law or when the requirements of Section 208 have been completed.”
Section 208 covers the investigations of the applicants; in this case, Best Sunshine and Marianas Stars.
Saipan voters twice rejected legalizing casino gaming on the island; the last one was in 2007. The Senate also killed in one way or another at least four Saipan casino bills from the House, but passed the latest one early this year without public hearings or committee report.