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    Friday, October 19, 2018-2:58:55P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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‘We don’t need 2,000 hotel-casino rooms’

THE Commonwealth Casino Commission has asked the House Committee on Gaming to reconsider Imperial Pacific International’s proposed $2 billion development projects.

Commission Executive Director Edward Deleon Guerrero, during a meeting with the House committee on Wednesday, said IPI’s exclusive license calls for 2,000 new hotel rooms which will require a minimum of 2 million visitors a year.

Edward Deleon Guerrero

CNMI visitor arrivals peaked at 727,000 in 1997. In 2017, there were 659,741 arrivals.

“I don’t think the CNMI could accommodate 2 million visitors a year,” Deleon Guerrero said. “And I don’t think we have the capability to construct 2,000 rooms.”

He said for the past two years, the Saipan casino’s VIP room has been generating a significant amount of revenue.

“It appears that revenue-wise, the VIP room is the direction in which to go — we don’t need the 2,000 rooms or 2 million visitors. We just need to focus on visitors and tourists of that type,” Deleon Guerrero said, referring to “VIPs.”

He said lawmakers should now discuss whether the CNMI is still willing to see 2,000 new rooms and a $2 billion investment.

House Committee on Gaming Chairman Joseph Deleon Guerrero  agreed.

“We need to discuss that. The CNMI government really needs to reconsider that. The 2,000 rooms will require 2 million tourists. I think that is something that we should really consider. I feel that we don’t really need that many tourists because I am not sure our airport can accommodate such numbers. I am not sure that we have the capacity and infrastructure to accommodate that number without sacrificing the needs of our own residents,” Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero said.

“Another thing that we should also consider is [IPI’s] integrated resort, which means the casino and the hotel are integrated. Maybe we should consider separating them and just have a hotel component and a casino component. It’s easier to find an operator to run a casino and an operator to run a hotel than finding an operator who can run both. These are difficult issues that need to be considered…. We will have to amend the casino law in order to address that issue.”

Commonwealth Casino Commission Chairman Juan Sablan said the Lottery Commission’s recent granting of an extension for the deadline to complete IPI’s hotel-casino project in Garapan was a wise decision for the Commonwealth.

He noted that the extension includes a penalty of $5,000 a day if IPI fails to meet the new deadline of Feb. 28, 2021.

“IPI should know that we mean business here, and we cannot continue to amend the agreement over and over again,” Sablan said.