The unraveling


What Best Sunshine wants, Best Sunshine gets.

They are aggressive, their PR is on full throttle, they are in almost every community event for donations and photo opportunities, they paid a quarter of retirees’ pension, paid for peoples’ utilities, and they are now in every “village.”

They get concessions, including from the Legislature and the Executive Branch such as amending the Saipan casino law over and over to accommodate the investor’s needs and wants, among other things, like allowing a live training facility in an existing mall, for example, instead of starting with a gaming facility that’s built from the ground up as the original law required.

The deal struck recently between Best Sunshine and Mariana Resort & Spa owner Kan Pacific is almost a guarantee that Best Sunshine will get the new public land lease on the Marpi property for another 40 years when the current 40-year lease expires in April 2018. That’s whether or not the Department of Public Lands continues the RFP or not.

Best Sunshine won’t aggressively pursue something or dive into something unless it knows the outcome, with the way things have been.

Kan Pacific assigned the remaining lease years of Mariana Resort’s Marpi lands to Best Sunshine, which has been eyeing the property almost since day 1.

The $7 billion price tag of Best Sunshine’s promised integrated casino resort will be hard to surpass by any other investor group that would participate in the bidding process; perhaps only another casino group of investors, but Best Sunshine already holds an exclusive casino license on Saipan.

Since Kan Pacific has already assigned the remaining lease on the property until 2018, not giving it to Best Sunshine or another entity (assuming another party would bid) would mean no income from the public land lease when the current lease expires.

Moreover, the press release from the parties stated they intend to “work together to support Best Sunshine’s efforts to obtain a new lease on the land.” Kan Pacific will not bid on the property anymore, but stated the possibility of establishing a new hotel on the same Marpi land “or some other suitable location.”

A new lease would have to be approved by the Legislature. With its current composition, the Legislature would likely approve it. By January, the new House speaker under a power sharing deal is the author of the Saipan casino bill, Vice Speaker Ralph Demapan (R-Saipan).

Unless, of course, there’s another kind of leadership change in the House, wherein the minority picks new allies to make up the new majority. Best Sunshine is surely on the lookout.

The administration declined comment on the Best Sunshine and Kan Pacific agreement, saying it’s between two business entities. While it’s true that it’s between two private entities, the property involved is public lands and the real owners of the land sure do want to hear from the administration or DPL.

Would the CNMI government allow Best Sunshine to build on the existing Mariana Resort facility instead of building a new hotel—with casino—from the grounds up? Is another casino law amendment in the pipeline?

One wonders whether Hyatt Regency Saipan, the only global brand hotel in the CNMI, would also cave in if and when Best Sunshine or another investor group takes a strong interest in its property or if DPL pushes through with an RFP without offering Hyatt the chance to negotiate a new lease.

Hyatt’s 40-year lease will be expiring in a few years, and so are Kanoa Resort & Spa’s and Fiesta Resort & Spa’s. It won’ be surprising if any or all of these three other hotels have also been approached by Best Sunshine.

And almost two years since the Saipan casino bill became law, there’s been no meaningful discussion and action in either the Legislature or the administration to assess public infrastructure and services needed such as expanded water, power, sewer, roads, hospital, schools and law enforcement services to meet the demands of a $7 billion investment that will forever change Saipan.

Moreover, in just a short two years, Saipan has become the gaming capital of Micronesia. That’s at least two years after elected officials started making trips (the ones that we know of) to Singapore and Macau/Hong Kong to meet with prospective casino investors in late 2013, and up to early 2014, weeks before the Saipan casino bill was introduced.

Besides the longtime poker parlors, Saipan now also has a casino courtesy of a controversial March 2014 law, and thriving electronic gaming facilities in certain hotels because of a law put in place in December 2013. The Saipan casino is part of a planned $7-billion integrated casino resort. And then there’s video lottery.

If only Best Sunshine’s plans and activities are given the same scrutiny given to the U.S. military’s plans for the Commonwealth, then perhaps there would be more answers rather than questions about the real impact of Best Sunshine’s casino on the CNMI.

GUN LAW. Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) is considering legislation that will allow the CNMI people to decide through their own legislative process whether the Second Amendment should apply to them or whether they should be able to decide for themselves what limits, if any, there should be on gun ownership in the Commonwealth.

It’s high time the CNMI discuss the Second Amendment and gun ownership control more openly, given the series of shootings on American soil and the recent challenge to the CNMI’s own gun law.

“The safety and the rights of my constituents should not be held hostage by a national debate in which we cannot fully participate. And the legislation I am considering introducing will take the decision out of the hands of the federal government and give that power back to the people of the Northern Mariana Islands,” Sablan said in a recent post on social media.

(All views expressed by the author are his/her own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and stance of the Saipan Tribune.)

Haidee V. Eugenio Eugenio

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