TRO stops govt from issuing casino license


Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued yesterday a temporary restraining order that stops Gov. Eloy S. Inos, the CNMI government, the Commonwealth Lottery Commission, and the Finance secretary from either denying or approving a casino license.

Wiseman issued the order after casino license applicant Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc. filed yesterday a lawsuit and requested a TRO, saying it will be irreparably harmed if the TRO is not issued pending the resolution of its case.

The TRO expires on June 29, 2014, at noon unless the court extends it.

Wiseman will hear Marianas Stars’ motion for an injunction on July 1, 2014.

In granting the TRO, Wiseman required Marianas Stars to submit a $1,000 cash bond before noon on June 23, 2014.

The judge said Marianas Stars has demonstrated to a certain extent the probability of success on the merits of its lawsuit and related claims. It was also reportedly demonstrated that the TRO will not injure the ability of Inos, the Lottery Commission, Finance secretary, and the CNMI government to issue a casino license if the TRO is issued in error as an injunction hearing can be set and heard ahead of the Lottery Commission’s July 1 deadline to issue a casino license.

In its request for TRO, Marianas Stars, through counsel Sean E. Frink, claims that it will be irreparably harmed if the TRO is not issued because the Lottery Commission’s issuance of a casino license before July 1, 2014, will constitute an illegal act.

Frink said this is because the license cannot be issued without the participation of the Casino Commission, which does not exist yet because no commissioners have been approved to serve.

Frink said if a license is issued, the CNMI government is preparing to immediately issue several checks to retirees to make the license issuance an act that effectively cannot be rescinded, even if patently illegal.

This, the lawyer said, will deprive his client of any meaningful ability to challenge the Lottery Commission’s alleged illegal license issuance.

In granting the TRO, Wiseman said Star Marianas’ claims appear to be founded in fact and the law.

In Star Marianas’ petition for administrative appeal, taxpayer’s action, and complaint, Frink argued that the Lottery Commission has been hopelessly compromised in its independent decision making.

He said the Lottery Commission, despite having been warned that it is breaking the law by spending Casino Commission monies and usurping Casino Commission authority, continues in its race to illegally issue a casino license to Best Sunshine International Ltd., the entity “which was apparently preordained to have the casino license issued to it even before the casino law was passed.”

Frink said that Lottery Commission members are aware of the significant evidence that indicates that in order to force the passage of the casino law, agents of people from Hong Kong and Macau who wanted a Saipan casino license illegally provided benefits to at least four CNMI senators in order to cause them to support the passage of the casino law.

“Yet, the Lottery Commission refuses to investigate Best Sunshine and its principals and agents in order to determine whether such allegations are true and whether Best Sunshine or persons affiliated with its team are responsible,” Frink said.

The lawyer added that if such allegations were to be proved true, Best Sunshine would not qualify for the issuance of a casino license, yet the Lottery Commission is turning a blind eye to the allegations by intentionally not investigating them.

Frink asked the court to enter an injunction before the TRO’s expiration, stopping the defendants from issuing a casino license unless and until all aspects of the casino law are first complied with, such as the Casino Commission’s required involvement in the applicant investigation and the issuance of regulations.

Marianas Stars Entertainment and Best Sunshine International are both seeking an exclusive Saipan casino resort developer license. Each has already submitted a $1 million nonrefundable application fee, a completed application, a business plan, and a $30-million refundable deposit.

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

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