DPL issues ‘intent to award’ casino company
The Saipan casino, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, moves a step closer to securing a lease for coveted public lands in Marpi inclusive of the Mariana Resort and Spa, after the Department of Public Lands issued a notice of intent to award the casino with a lease last Friday.
Imperial Pacific is the Hong Kong-based mother company of Best Sunshine International, Ltd. It runs the temporary casino, Best Sunshine Live, at the T Galleria.
If awarded to the casino, DPL would complete a competitive bid process that began when a request for proposal, or RFP, was opened last October for a bid on lots used for racecar tracks, mini golf courses, and the Marpi hotel itself, its cottages, villas, and maintenance and sports facilities, and other vacant lands held by Kan Pacific Saipan, the Japanese company that owns the resort.
Saipan Tribune learned Friday that the July 15 letter came with some conditions that DPL listed. However, when asked, DPL would not release the letter citing an ongoing “negotiating” process.
“We issued an Intent to Award,” DPL secretary Marianne Teregeyo told Saipan Tribune in an email, “they were the only company that submitted a proposal, despite DPL’s efforts (before I came in [into office in February]) to send the RFP package to developers off-island. However, I am uncomfortable to release the letter as there are items that we will need to negotiate with. A meeting will be set with Imperial Pacific sometime in the next two weeks.”
Sources said that among other conditions listed in the letter, DPL included items like authorization for DPL to obtain bank or financial information form the casino to vet project financing and a timetable for the project, among others.
The RFP last year was released to controversy amid claims from Kan Pacific that DPL had breached its contract with the resort owner for deciding to pursue an RFP. However, the casino and the Japanese hotel owner reported a deal had been brokered to transition ownership of the lease the following December—and after settlement was reached in May after DPL contested the Kan Pacific and casino deal—controversy seems to have cooled and paved the way for a smooth bid process free of litigation, and the eventual and expected, by many, awarding of public lands to Best Sunshine International, Ltd.
“It has been a long and tough journey over the last three years,” Marianas Resort general manager Gloria Cavangh told Saipan Tribune yesterday. “It was a very difficult decision for Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd. to give up the fight. At the time it was 37 ½ years of doing business on Saipan. Although we are saddened that we will not continue for another 38 years, we wish the best of luck and much success to IPI with their business proposal. We have to keep in mind that their success is the CNMI’s success. IPI has expressed their willingness to absorb our valued employees. I hope for a smooth transition of that. There are very good people who have worked for us for many years with KPS. We are hopeful that this would benefit the whole of the CNMI.”
“KPS is not leaving the CNMI but will branch out to other businesses within Saipan,” she added. “Saipan is the home of the Kitami family.”
Requests for comment from casino executives forwarded through a casino lawyer has not been responded to as of press time yesterday.
In revealing their desire for the Kan Pacific lands last year, casino executives touted plans to build world’s largest water park, 20 hotels, and a one-kilometer long shopping strip in the area.
House minority leader Rep. Ramon Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), for his part, wants to know the full extent of the casino company’s desire to lease public lands in Marpi, as well as the size of the additional public land joined in on the Kan Pacific lease, noting that the old lease for Kan Pacific went through legislative process for its approval.
“Is it 4.99 hectares?” he said. If it was five or more hectares, he said, “it would require legislative approval.”
He wants to know the extent of lands “in addition” to the lands under the old lease, if any, included in the bid, adding that he understands that the casino has “big” plans stretching down south of the property to Pau Pau Beach.
Tebuteb noted that a former governor divided public lots in the area into “4.99” hectares to avoid legislative purview and added he would be curious to know of the additional land the casino wants to acquire.
“I am curious to know whatever the final disposition is on their awards,” he said.
“But what I understood when we were looking at this—and when [casino CEO] Mark Brown was presenting in a secret meeting with the leadership—they showed a map that included all the way down” south to Pau Pau beach, he told Saipan Tribune.
According to the RFP last year, the total property for bid amounts to 1.61 million square meters.