The Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) was created by Public Law (PL) 18-56 that established and authorized the casino gaming industry on Saipan.
PL 18-56, signed on July 11, 2014, authorized the Commonwealth Lottery Commission (CLC) to grant and issue an exclusive casino license to an eligible applicant. The CLC invited interested applicants for the exclusive license by issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP). Two applicants responded to the RFP — Marianas Star Entertainment and Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC.
After an extensive review and vetting process, the Commonwealth Lottery Commission awarded Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC, the exclusive casino license. This was formalized on August 12, 2014, with the signing of the Casino License Agreement (CLA) between the Commonwealth Lottery Commission and Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC (IPI).
The CCC is headed by five (5) Commissioners: One from Rota (1st Senatorial District), One (1) from Tinian & Aguiguan (2nd Senatorial District); and Three (3) from Saipan & the Northern Islands (3rd Senatorial District). PL 18-56 provides that three of the Commissioners constitute a quorum for the CCC. On October 24, 2014, three of the Commissioners were confirmed by the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation (SNILD) and sworn into office. This constituted the official date of the CCC’s existence pursuant to the CNMI Attorney General’s Opinion, dated July 6, 2015.
The CCC recruited its first Executive Director and the Executive Assistant to the Commission in January of 2015. Through an inter-agency agreement with the CNMI Office of the Attorney General, the CCC recruited its Legal Counsel, an Assistant Attorney General, in March 2015.
The CCC was delegated the authority by PL 18-56 and PL 19-24 to promulgate the CCC Rules and Regulations and to implement and enforce those regulations. In April 2015, the CCC completed and adopted its first CCC Regulations via emergency adoption in the Commonwealth Register as required by the Administrative Procedures Act.
The CCC Regulations mandate that all Casino Employees, Key Employees, Casino Service Providers, and Casino Vendors conducting business transactions of $250,000 or more per annum with IPI, and Junket Operators must acquire a CCC License. The Gaming Tables and Electronic Gaming Machines (EGMs or Slot Machines) are required to be tested, certified, and validated as meeting the Gaming Laboratory International (GLI) industry standards and related requirements. The GLI test, and certification must be done prior to being shipped to Saipan as well as upon installation. EGM vendors are required to submit directly to the CCC all test reports and certifications for each EGM and other gaming devices.
The Casino Gaming Licensee is also required by the CCC to re-test and re-certify all gaming equipment, tables, and devices upon installation at the casino floor prior to putting them on live operations to protect the integrity of the casino games. Further, full electronic connectivity to the Casino Management System is required for each EGM and related assets. In addition, all Gaming Tables, EGMs, and other areas of the casino premises are required to have full video surveillance coverage.
All Casino Employees, Key Employees, Casino Service Providers, Casino Vendors, and Casino Junket Operators are subject to licensing requirements that require background investigations including review of their criminal history, association, and financial suitability, among others. Once the vetting process is completed, CCC issues the Identification Badges and/or Licenses.
Initially, the CCC established a close working relationship with the Department of Public Safety in the issuance of the Casino Employee Identification Badges and in the taking of fingerprints. In the last quarter of 2015, the CCC secured its own ID badging system and all Employee Identification Badges are currently being issued by the CCC. The CCC also procured its own fingerprinting equipment and has been taking the necessary fingerprints for licensing purposes.
PL 18-56 requires the exclusive casino licensee to invest a minimum of $2 billion and construct a minimum of 2,000 new hotel rooms. The law further requires payment of an exclusive license fee of $15 million annually. The gaming license is for 25 years, starting August 12, 2014, with option by the licensee to extend for an additional 15 years, for a total of 40 years.
The Casino License Agreement (CLA) provides for three (3) phases of development. The first stage is the Initial Gaming Facility. This is the Imperial Pacific Resort and Hotel (Imperial Palace) in Garapan, Saipan. The second and third stages are Phase I and Phase II. The CLA requires IPI to perform specific deliverables for each stage including 4-star quality hotel and gaming facilities.
On February 24, 2015, the CLC approved IPI’s proposal to open a Temporary Live Gaming Training Facility at the Duty-Free T-Galleria plaza in Garapan, Saipan. Subsequently, IPI requested permission to begin its live gaming operations. The CCC granted the request on July 26, 2015. By the end of calendar year 2015, the CCC licensed over 700 employees, 15 key employees, 45 gaming tables, and 106 electronic gaming machines (EGM).
Lastly, it is important to note that the CCC’s existing source of funding at this time was from the Casino Application Fees. The Secretary of Finance was mandated by PL 18-56, the responsibility to establish and maintain a Commonwealth Casino Application Fee (CCAF) Special Fund. The CCAF Special Fund was intended to provide the necessary budget for the CCC to carry out its mandates, including help in funding for training, recruitment of critical staffing, securing an office for the CCC, and procurement of basic operational resources and related services.
The CCC’s duties to investigate and license all casino employees, key employees, service providers, vendors, gaming tables, EGMs, and other gaming devices require substantial financial and human resources.
Commonwealth Casino Commission Commissioners, Executive Director, and Managers meet with House Standing Committee on Gaming, February 2, 2017