More than 40 employees of the Tinian Mayor’s Office were laid off last Friday because the island municipality no longer has the money to pay them following the expected closure of Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino this month.
Tinian Mayor Joey P. San Nicolas told Saipan Tribune that he had to inform more than 40 Tinian Mayor’s Office employees that their last day was Friday, Sept. 18.
“Unfortunately, I had to inform employees that their last day was Friday as we just do not have the funds to sustain their employment,” he said. “Taxes and fees collected from the casino is what allows Tinian to provide the community much needed supplemental assistance through programs and services”
Taxes and fees collected from the casino is also the source of funding for many municipal jobs, he added.
“For as long as the casino operations remain shut down, so does the stream of funding that flows into the municipal[ity’s] coffers,” San Nicolas said.
The Tinian mayor said the crisis spawned by Tinian Dynasty’s decision to first shutter its casino operations, followed by its hotel’s impending closure by month’s end, is having a cascading negative effect on the island’s already fragile economy.
“Tinian is already experiencing the downward spiral effect of the Dynasty’s casino operation’s closure. Star Marianas has laid off employees. Employees from the Dynasty who are able to transfer are moving. Signature annual tourism-related events are being cancelled. …I have employees coming to my office looking for any kind of work…the list is only getting longer. This is what I have been fighting to prevent,” he said.
TCGCC mulls compromise deal
The Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission is still considering a request that an interim casino license be issued to Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino’s new owners.
In an email, TCGCC executive director Lucia Blanco-Maratita told Saipan Tribune that “the commission is still considering the matter and will act in accordance with the gaming law and regulations.”
Chinese Strategic Holdings Ltd. chair and executive director Kwok Hing Wilfred Lam and its subsidiary, Tinian Entertainment Co., last week called for a compromise deal wherein, as a show of good faith, Blanco-Maratita and the commission would issue an interim casino license to Tinian Dynasty.
That would lead to the payment of an additional $100,000 investigation fee while the suitability investigation for Chinese Strategic and TEC’s plenary casino gaming license is ongoing.
“The commission is bound by its regulation in its expenditure of fees paid in connection with the processing of a casino license application, which includes investigation fees, etc.,” said Blanco-Maratita in her response to Lam’s request.
Lam earlier said that they have already paid the $100,000 investigation fee as well as a $200,000 application fee.
TEC was given until Sept. 9 to deposit with TCGCC an additional $100,000 refundable investigation fee. This means that any unused portion of the fee will be refunded to the applicant.
According to San Nicolas, so far nothing has changed with regards to the TCGCC and Tinian Dynasty stalemate.
He said TEC is not willing to pay an additional $100,000 without TCGCC giving them an interim casino authorization while the investigation is being conducted.
“Unfortunately, as mayor, there is only so much that I can do and that is to ask TCGCC and TEC to work cooperatively and expeditiously,” he said.