Casino licensee wants to open casino on Rota on Christmas Eve but…

Atalig says Rota Casino Gaming Commission needs $740,000 as startup funding

A Korean company, whose five-year casino license is expiring next year, wants to open its casino on Rota this Dec. 24, 2021, but the Rota Casino Gaming Commission needs a minimum funding of $740,000 in order for the casino operation to move forward.

Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig disclosed Rota casino licensee IH Corp’s plan and the needed budget for the commission in his letter yesterday to Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) and Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota), who co-chair the Rota Legislative Delegation.

As it stands now, IH Corp has yet to build a casino the past four years, Atalig said in his letter, but has asked the commission to open its casino this Dec. 24.

Saipan Tribune learned from a Rota official who requested anonymity that the company rents a small building on Rota and has put some slot machines instead of poker machines, and they call it a “casino.”

Atalig said that with the company’s aggressive move to start its casino, it behooves the commission to find a solution as soon possible.

Atalig said the challenge facing the commission right now is not having funding to hire critical staff and to train them in the regulatory requirements of casino operations.

He said to prepare the commission as a functioning entity, they need a minimum funding of $740,000 to cover salaries, training, and office needs.

Atalig said with the assistance of the Rota municipality and financial support from the central government, the commission can move forward in allowing casino operation on the island.

He said the revitalization of Rota’s economy rests in part on an entity like the Rota Casino Gaming Commission operating on a positive image of competency in regulating casino operations.

Rota voters overwhelmingly voted to allow casino operation on Rota via a public initiative in the 1997 general elections.

Unfortunately, Atalig said, the only provision in the Act was that funds for the commission will come from tax revenue collected from the casino operation.

“Without startup funds, how can the commission set up their office, hire needed staff, be trained in their office, be trained in their regulatory functions and other administrative requirements as a regulator entity?” the mayor asked.

The breakdown of the budget request for $740,000 in annual operation is as follows:

*five commissioners at $60,000 each, for a total of $300,000.
* Executive director at $65,000.
* Legal counsel as needed, at $45,000.
* Executive secretary at $30,000.
*Accountant at $40,000.
* Enforcement officer at $35,000.
* Three enforcement agents at $30,000 each, for a total of $90,000.
*Training cost at $60,000.
* Office equipment, computers, furnishing, vehicle/fuel, office supplies. etc. at $75,000.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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