Casino project scaled down

Bridge Investment Group is moving forward with its planned 300-room casino hotel investment project on Tinian, albeit scaled down into the USD 40-USD 50 million range from the originally planned USD 200 million investment.

Phillip Mendiola-Long, the company’s vice president for CNMI operations, declined to comment on the downsizing of Bridge Investment’s outlay for its Tinian casino hotel project.

One of the company’s investors, Erik F. Wang, arrived on Saipan yesterday and announced to the media Bridge Investment’s intention to move ahead with the project, said the project would be composed of two phases that would total some USD 40 million to USD 50 million.

Saipan Tribune archives quoted Mendiola-Long as saying in previous interviews that the project would total USD 150 million to USD 200 million.

The project’s “ceremonial groundbreaking” in late December 2007 was cancelled, in part because of the introduction of House Bill 15-322, a measure that intended to legalize gaming on Saipan.

Besides the Saipan gaming bill, which the Senate rejected a few weeks later, Wang said the company also took a long hard look at the islands‘ possible federalization of immigration and minimum wage increase before deciding that it was still feasible to continue with its investments on Tinian.

Wang, who had whirlwind meetings with various government officials yesterday, said he expects Bridge Investment to hold its groundbreaking ceremony for its 50,000-square-meter project in late March or early April this year.

He said the groundbreaking is contingent on Bridge Investment securing all the necessary permits from government agencies: Coastal Resource Management, Historic Preservation Office, Division of Environmental Quality, Division of Fish and Wildlife, among others.

The first phase of construction would involve the building of the hotel and casino complex. It would cost roughly around USD 25 million to USD 30 million and is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2009 or first quarter of 2010.

At that time, Mendiola-Long and Wang said, the hotel and casino would be open for customers, which he expects would come from China, Korea, Japan, and other countries in the Pacific Rim.

The still unnamed hotel and casino, the two said, will have top-of-the-line restaurants, spas, and other amenities common to hotels.

Wang said the second phase of the project would involve the construction of the casino hotel’s villas and bungalows and the outlay for that project is around USD 15 million. He did not disclose the timetable for phase two’s completion.

Bridge Investment has hired the China-based Tianyuan Construction Group to build the 300-room hotel and casino.

Aside from Wang, other investors in the Tinian project are Rudy Pamintuan, Howard Li, Ken Wong, Akshay Desai, and Rocky Li.