Casino regulator nixes calls for 10% gaming tax in Saipan

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Imposing an additional 10 percent tax on Saipan’s casino industry is not appropriate. At least, not right now.

Casino regulator nixes calls for 10% gaming tax in SaipanSaipan lawmaker Edmund Villagomez recently tabled a proposal that seeks to add another 10 percent tax on casino gaming revenue on top of the business gross revenue tax, according to a Marianas Variety.

However, members of the Commonwealth Casino Commission turned down the measure on grounds that the island’s sole casino operator, Best Sunshine International, is already paying an exclusive license fee, gross gaming tax, as well as other regulatory fees.

Commission Executive Director Edward Deleon Guerrero told lawmakers Best Sunshine has paid the $1 million application fee; the three-year $15 million exclusive license fee totaling $45 million; the $3 million regulatory fee; the $4.4 million developers fee; some $1.7 million in excise taxes, and between $3 million to $4 million in business gross revenue tax (BGRT).

Best Sunshine currently operates a temporary casino on the island. According to regulatory filings by its parent company Imperial Pacific International Holdings, the casino achieved a rolling chip turnover of $1.65 billion in June, a 35 percent drop from May’s number and barely half that of April’s $3.2 billion.

The turnover figured was also the casino’s lowest since December’s $1.44 billion, but Best Sunshine CEO Mark Brown remains positive that the business will experience “explosive growth” when the permanent property’s first phase opens.

The temporary casino currently supports only 50 gaming tables, but Brown said the number will rise to over 250 – along with 400 slot machines and the usual assortment of restaurants, bars and clubs – when the new property opens.

And this is what Deleon Guerrero is also banking on, telling lawmakers to give the casino “a year after the Grand Mariana is completed.”

According to the commission, the Imperial Pacific has pushed the target date for the still under-construction casino resort from the original December 31, 2016 completion to “a few days prior to the Chinese New Year, most probably around Jan. 25, 2017,”Saipan Tribune reported.

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