Tang: Casino BGRT helps CNMI make $1M payments per week


Tang says $468M needed to fully fund Settlement Fund

The gross revenue tax from the Saipan casino has helped the CNMI government pay $1 million per week to the Settlement Fund since December 2015, extending the Settlement Fund’s investment horizon, according to Settlement Fund trustee Joyce C. H. Tang.

However, since it is not certain that this source of revenue will continue, and because of the CNMI government’s own lack of revenue diversification, relying too much on the casino GRT “is very risky,” Tang said.

Subject to certain assumptions, Tang said, an additional $468 million would need to be infused to the Settlement Fund today to fully fund it.

These, and other issues, were contained in Tang’s report filed in federal court yesterday on the operation of the Settlement Fund for fiscal year 2016 through the third quarter of fiscal year 2017.

Tang said the CNMI government has worked closely with the Settlement Fund to make the minimum annual payment of $30 million in fiscal year 2016 and $33 million in fiscal year 2017.

Since December 2015, the government has been making regular payments of $1 million per week to the Settlement Fund, she said.

“The regular weekly payments has allowed the Settlement Fund to avoid drawdowns on investments and extended the Settlement Fund’s investment horizon,” she said.

In fiscal year 2018, Tang said, the minimum annual payment, or MAP, will increase to $45 million.

The actuary consultant engaged by the Settlement Fund, Milliman Inc., has confirmed that the $45 million MAP provided in the settlement agreement in Betty Johnson’s class action is appropriate for fiscal year 2018.

Tang previously reported that unless the CNMI government increases its contributions, the Settlement Fund is expected to become a pay-as-you-go entity in 2019.

If the government continues to make timely and periodic payments of the MAP, the expected asset depletion date for the Settlement Fund may be extended to the end of 2024, Tang said, quoting Maggie Ralbovsky, the Settlement Fund’s investment adviser.

Tang said the government’s weekly payment of $1 million to the Settlement Fund in the past two years has given the Fund the cash flow it needed for bi-weekly benefit payments to the beneficiaries without having to liquidate the Fund’s investments.

The government’s willingness to make these large weekly payments eased the Settlement Fund’s liquidity requirements, Tang said, allowing the Settlement Fund to invest its money for longer periods.

Tang said the government is able to make these payments, in part, because of the increased casino GRT revenue collected in 2016 and 2017, which has developed into a primary source of revenue for the government.

She pointed out, though, that the lack of diversification of revenue sources creates a risk for the CNMI.

Tang said the continuing payment of the casino GRT to the government at the current rate is, at best, uncertain.

In order to mitigate the risk to the Settlement Fund, Tang said she is exploring alternative funding methods, including obtaining full funding of the Settlement Fund.

She said the Settlement Fund’s investment consultant has calculated the amount ($468 million) that is needed for the Settlement Fund to be fully funded.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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