The Commonwealth Casino Commission gave Best Sunshine International Ltd. the go-signal Friday to open its “live” gaming facility at the T Galleria, allowing the casino to hold a soft opening on Sunday.
During a meeting on Friday, commissioners unanimously voted “yes” to authorize BSI, which holds an exclusive license to operate a casino on Saipan, to open the temporary casino.
Commission executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero said he and other commissioners visited the Garapan facility and, after an assessment, recommended that the casino be opened to the public.
“They [BSI] requested to open the temporary casino,” Deleon Guerrero said.
In his report to the commission, Deleon Guerrero said BSI has paid for the licenses of 202 employees. The employees were required to undergo fingerprinting at the Department of Public Safety. DPS agreed to open its offices last Saturday to accommodate the long queue of BSI applicants for the fingerprinting, Deleon Guerrero said.
The other licenses paid for by BSI were 45 gaming tables and 106 slot machines.
Commissioner Joseph Reyes said that for now, the regulators will allow BSI to use its own “internal controls” while the commission completes its final regulations.
“As regulators, one of our aims is to track every dollar coming in. The internal controls they [BSI] have in the casino are even better than some banks,” Reyes said.
One of the key components of internal controls is tracking down the money generated by the casino on a regular basis.
Deleon Guerrero said the commissioners and some commission staff will have access to the “counting room” as part of their regulatory tasks.
Members of the casino commission have also agreed to work in shifts, while hiring for more staff continues.
The question of the legality of opening the temporary casino was also discussed by regulators.
Commission legal counsel Michael Ernest said certain provisions of Public Law 18-56, or the casino law, allows the opening of the temporary casino.
With the authorization, BSI opened the doors of its casino on Sunday mid-noon, becoming the very first casino on Saipan.
According to CEO Mark Brown, it was a “soft opening” with only six gaming tables offering baccarat, a card game favored by Chinese players.
But Brown said “it was a very good turnout for all of us” and that he had to open three more tables.
In one corner of the casino are shiny gaming machines. However, these are not in operation yet because they have to be tested and certified.
Brown said a third-party firm will soon start testing the 106 machines. By early August, these machines will be ready, he said.
A crowd of mostly Chinese players were seen occupying most of the gaming tables and most of the nine tables were full, with five or more players at each table.
Each table was surrounded by curious onlookers as well as other players lining up for their turn on the tables.
Most of the baccarat dealers were local residents. Supervisors were also seen assisting the dealers.
These dealers, according to Brown, came from a training facility that BSI had set up at the nearby Bank of Guam building across the T Galleria.
Some 30 locals are “tapped in” as dealers, Brown added.
“After just more than two months of training, here they are. I am satisfied with their work so far,” Brown said.
According to him, some 150 local workers were deployed on the first day of the casino, handling the casino’s security, bar, and a snack lounge, among others.
“We did not advertise for this opening. We plan to have a formal opening in August,” he said, adding that he is satisfied with the turnout.
The casino commission gave approval for BSI to operate for 12 hours starting Sunday until Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, the casino will be open from 12pm to 2am. On Monday next week, the casino will operate for 24 hours.