Saipan Governor Eloy Inos has signed a bill legalizing a casino on the western Pacific island.
His approval paved the way for casino operations on the three main islands constituting the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and prompted the cash-strapped government to restore a 25 percent cut in senior citizen pensions.
Up to now, casinos have been legal only on the neighboring islands of Tinian and Rota, and only one, Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino, is in operation.
Repeated attempts to expand the industry to Saipan, the largest island of the group, have failed because of political and community opposition. But the recent legalization of electronic gaming combined with the government’s increasingly dire financial straits proved the difference, and the bill was fast-tracked though the House of Representatives and the Senate, bypassing the committee stage and without formal hearings.
Officials now are looking for an investor willing to meet the law’s minimum capital requirement of US$2 billion and 2,000 hotel rooms.