VIDEO: CNMI Report – Saipan Casino Would Work, But Don’t Expect a Big One

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Saipan – A Macau-based Asian gaming consultant told CNMI Gov. Benigno  Fitial and members of the Legislature this week that casino gambling is feasible on Saipan.

But, as the Saipan Tribune reports,  IGamiX Consulting Managing Partner, Ben Lee, also says the island should not expect to draw major investors due to current challenges, among them, the limited number of airlines that fly to Saipan.

Lee advised Commonwealth leaders that they should start small if  they want a casino industry established, adding that Saipan should be ready to face stiff competition from Asian destinations which already have well established casino industries such as Macau, Korea, Singapore, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Still, despite the challenges, Lee says Saipan need a casino industry. And he believes it would give tourism a much-needed boost.

Lee advised lawmakers to seriously consider permitting gambling on Saipan, and assured them that the industry would absolutely benefit the local economy.

Casino would work on Saipan but don’t expect big investors’

A Macau-based Asian gaming consultant told Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and several lawmakers yesterday that casino gambling would work on Saipan, but the island should not expect to draw major investors or the likes of casino magnate Steve Wynn because of existing challenges such as airline access to the island.

Ben Lee, managing partner of IGamiX Management & Consulting Ltd., said Saipan should start small if it wants a casino industry established, and the island should be ready to face stiff competition from Asian destinations with established casino industries such as Macau, Korea, Singapore, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

But Lee, who came to Saipan at the invitation of the governor, said that despite the competition, a casino industry is “what Saipan needs, I believe, to give tourism a much needed boost right now.”

“Gaming in the region is now viewed as a game changer. So a lot of countries other than Saipan are looking at gaming to actually attract tourism,” Lee said in an interview after his closed-door presentation for the governor and lawmakers on Capital Hill yesterday.

The presentation started at shortly past 10am and lasted until about 12:30pm.

Fitial asked lawmakers last week to listen to the casino consultant’s presentation before acting on a local bill seeking to legalize casino gambling on Saipan.

Lee said his message to lawmakers is “to seriously consider permitting gambling in Saipan to get the tourism industry to where it should be.”

He said a casino industry will “absolutely” benefit the local economy.

 “You just have to look at Singapore, Macau as prime examples. Singapore has increased tourism by 20 percent. In Macau, it’s unimaginable. Macau is now five times bigger than Las Vegas. In other countries-Cambodia, Vietnam-everybody’s looking at gaming to drive tourism and if you don’t have it you lose out in the race,” Lee told reporters.

He said Saipan will not compete with big jurisdictions like Macau and Singapore.

“You need it [casino industry] because otherwise what’s the outlook for Saipan? So I throw that question back at you. I’ve seen the tourism figure; it’s declining year in, year end. What do you have to do to change that? Somebody else asked me the same question, ‘can you think of something else that will change that trend?’ No,” he said.