$7B NOW EYED FOR SAIPAN INTEGRATED CASINO RESORT
Department of Public Lands Secretary Pete A. Tenorio confirmed yesterday that they have offered Saipan casino developer Best Sunshine International Ltd. over 20 hectares of public lands south of Mariana Resort & Spa in Marpi, even as Best Sunshine’s parent firm now estimates the project to cost $7.1 billion.
This is much more than Hong Kong-based Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd.’s earlier commitment of $3.14 billion for its planned integrated casino resort on Saipan.
Imperial Pacific, in its Sept. 24 filing of business plan with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, announced a five-phase development project with a total of 4,252 rooms and 300 villas, 1,600 gaming tables, and 3,500 slot machines on top of a theme park and other tourism-related amenities.
“The total development costs under the business plan are currently estimated to be approximately US$7.1 billion, equivalent to approximately HK$55.1 billion…” Imperial Pacific said Tuesday.
For 2014 alone, the estimated development cost is $36 million, and then $283 million in 2015, and so forth.
DPL and Best Sunshine’s plan to use Mariana Resort’s current location for the Saipan casino project has been drawing opposition.
Japanese investor Kan Pacific Saipan Ltd., owner of Mariana Resort, still has four years left on its current land lease with DPL and is asking the CNMI government to allow it a new 40-year lease.
Kan Pacific, lawmakers and other community members have been asking DPL to find a way to allow both investors to exist rather than throw one out to make space for the other.
Tenorio said yesterday that DPL acknowledges public concern and the interest of the government and investors.
“We are working around the land that is presently being leased [by Mariana Resort]. Those lands now that are not committed that belongs to the public are being looked at and that’s what we are negotiating for phase 1,” Tenorio told Saipan Tribune in an interview during the signing on Capital Hill of a land lease agreement with another investor planning to build a $300-million casino resort on Tinian.
Phase 1 of Best Sunshine’s five-phased development project includes the construction of 50 hotel rooms, 300 gaming tables and 500 slot machines—with an expected launch date of 2016.
There is no telling, however, whether the next phases of Best Sunshine’s project will be accommodated in the same area or other areas.
Nearly 10 hectares of the more than 20 hectares that DPL is offering Best Sunshine was earlier offered to South Korean giant E Land, after Tan Holdings withdrew from the project site to pursue its project on a private property, also in Marpi.
Tenorio said he has already notified E Land of DPL’s decision to offer the land instead to Best Sunshine. DPL issued a request for proposal to develop that tract of public land.
As of yesterday, however, DPL has yet to get a response from E Land.
“They’re probably going to be disappointed but they have to understand that we are looking at the best interest of the government. We hope that there’s a way to accommodate both sides. Again, we are going to have to work it out somewhere. I’m encouraging them to continue to have conversation so that nobody’s feeling is hurt,” Tenorio said.
E Land has yet to renovate the former The Palms Resort in San Roque, and has yet to complete the renovation of Coral Ocean Point. It also has yet to renovate Pacific Islands Club.
Tenorio said the more than 20 hectares of public lands offered to Best Sunshine includes the area on the “other side of the road going north.”
The DPL secretary said they are hoping that the developer is taking DPL’s recommendation to seriously look at adjoining private properties in the area.
“It takes more challenge for that. I have nothing to do with that. Public Land can only suggest, recommend that there are available private lands so let’s try to extend the benefit to private owners. It’s up to them to do that,” he added.
The Senate, meanwhile, adopted yesterday a resolution recognizing and commending Kan Pacific Saipan Ltd., doing business as Mariana Resort & Spa, for over 35 years of exceptional services to the CNMI people.
Senate Resolution 18-40, originally authored by Sen. Pete Reyes (Ind-Saipan), was adopted unanimously.
A similar House resolution commending Kan Pacific for its contributions to the CNMI is being drafted by Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan). That House resolution could be followed by a resolution pushing for the government to allow Kan Pacific to enter into a new lease with DPL, Leon Guerrero said.