Reduced fees for Rota casino investments now permanent

Prospective investors in Rota’s casino industry are now allowed a phased in casino development to meet the USD 25 million investment, starting with a minimum investment of USD 5 million in the first phase of development that includes casino construction and gaming equipment.

The nonrefundable casino application filing fee is also now USD 10,000 instead of the earlier proposal of USD 100,000.

These are among the major changes that are now a permanent part of the Rota Casino Gaming Commission Rules and Regulations to be able to entice more casino investors to come to Rota even during these tough economic times.

Diego M. Songao, chairman of the Rota Casino Gaming Commission, told Saipan Tribune that they still cannot disclose the identities of the investors currently interested in putting up casinos on Rota, until they file an application and paid the necessary fees.

The five-member commission adopted the regulations as “final” during a March 6 meeting and the final regulations were published in the Commonwealth Register on March 26, copies of which were released last week.

The entire proposed rules and regulations published in the Commonwealth Register on Dec. 22, 2008 were amended to reflect reduced fees to entice casino investors to Rota in light of the current economic difficulties.

Within 10 years after gaming operations begin, the conditional casino licensee is also required to demonstrate a phased development timeline where the total investment in the casino project will be no less than USD 25 million.

The license application filing fee was also reduced by 90 percent or from USD 100,000 to USD 10,000. The commission also reduced its casino license fee, from a flat rate of USD 200,000 a year to a tiered rate of USD 150,000 for one year, USD 300,000 for three years, and USD 400,000 for five years.

The commission said the positive changes will allow Rota to be one of the, if not the most, favorable gaming jurisdictions to invest and operate a casino in.

From 1991 to 2003, Rota tried four times to allow casino operation without success through public initiative.

However, in November 2007, Rota voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of the public initiative to allow casino gaming. 85 percent of the votes cast voted in favor of the initiative, now known as the Rota Casino Act of 2007.

The Act provides for the establishment of a Rota Casino Gaming Commission which has five members appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Rota Municipal Council.

The commission said investing on Rota can be mutually beneficial to both investors and the people of Rota because of the island’s rich history and tradition of having the friendliest people in the Marianas and with the protection of the American judicial system and U.S. laws.

“If you are serious in investing on Rota, you may find Rota a perfect choice of location for your casino, with Guam as your closest customer base and China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Manila with only three to five hours flight time to Rota,” the commission said.

In the CNMI, only Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino operates a five-star casino, although three other investors are now working on developing new casinos on Tinian.