Tinian Casino Clashes With Regulators

Tinian Dynasty Casino’s new Chinese owners have fallen out with regulators on the U.S. Pacific island territory. They complain they’re not getting the staff approvals they need, but regulators say they’re only doing their job.

A war of words has erupted in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas between the Tinian Dynasty Casino’s new Chinese owners and local officials charged with regulating it.

Mega Stars Overseas, the Hong Kong entity now at the helm of Pacific island territory’s sole casino, apparently has attracted the attention of the U.S. government, a signal that junket promoters affiliated with the Macau market may now be involved in the property.

Mega Stars complains that Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission has “slowed down” its approval of new hires, promotions and various service providers (code for the junkets), some dating back to October, and is being “uncooperative” in its relations with the new management.

Two former commission chairmen are among the key employees awaiting the completion of background checks and a required hearing and a finding of suitability.

Commission Chairman Matthew Masga said the commission is only performing its due diligence under the provisions of the Tinian Gaming Act, adding that the U.S. government is scrutinizing the casino and the commission.

Lucia L. Blanco-Maratita, the commission’s executive director, fired back by reminding Mega Stars that it is not yet legal itself.

“Mega Stars has not submitted its casino license application nor has it paid all fees due in order to begin the review process necessary for a finding of suitability before it can be authorized to legally operate the casino,” she said, adding that participation in the industry “is a revocable privilege conditioned upon the proper and continued qualification of the licensee.”

She characterized Dynasty’s charges as “unfortunate.”

“Perhaps this is due to the practice of non-compliance in previous years,” she said, “and now the current structure of the commission and executive director are taking the necessary approach of ensuring compliance with the Gaming Act in order to protect the public’s interest in the integrity of the regulatory process and of casino operations.”

The authorization of a casino on the main island of Saipan may also have acted to strain relations. Dynasty opposed the competition and prior to this year had been successful in beating back several attempts to legalize on the big island.

Mega Stars CEO Cario Hon reiterated the company’s commitment to Tinian, the commonwealth and to Dynasty, which is Tinian’s largest private-sector employer.