[Saipan Tribune] Federal Raid Of Tinian Casino Raises Flags About Regulatory Oversight
CNMI Governor ‘caught by surprise’ by federal action
By Haidee V. Eugenio
SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 29, 2013) – Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino resumed casino operations Thursday night, just hours after the temporary closure that morning because of a U.S. Internal Revenue Service investigation and arrest over Dynasty’s alleged non-filing of required paperwork with IRS. Meanwhile, Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Tinian officials separately raised concerns about the casino commission’s regulatory oversight functions and repercussions on the local economy.
Federal agents executed Thursday morning a search warrant on Tinian Dynasty, as well as warrants to seize its property and bank accounts.
Dynasty and at least two of its casino officials allegedly conspired to allow gamblers to conduct transactions involving more than $10,000 without filing with IRS a currency transaction report from September 2009 up to present.
Hotel operations at Dynasty, meanwhile, were not disrupted and were business as usual.
Inos said Friday that his office has commenced an “inquiry” with the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission, which has oversight over the casino industry on Tinian, about “what’s happening to Dynasty.”
“I don’t know at what point we would have to ask for that detailed information [revenue collection]. But right now we just want to know what’s going on. This is not to say we want to interfere with the federal action and so forth; we just want to know how this thing will affect us [CNMI],” Inos said after signing proclamations on Friday morning.
The governor also said the events at Dynasty “caught us by surprise.” He acknowledges that Dynasty has its issues and his office is not privy to the specifics of the federal actions that took place at the casino.
Inos said the casino industry itself is “certainly something that we need to be vigilant.”
As to its implications on plans to also allow casino gaming on Saipan, the governor said safeguards have to be in place and regulations and laws have to be followed.
“If anything, it’s a lesson learned and we just want to ensure that if and when casino legislation ever passes here, that we make sure the regulations are in place-that we safeguard the players as well as the industry, and the owners as well. We’re not immune to anything but we will do our best to make sure if that happens, that we have the right infrastructure, regulations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dynasty employees have yet to receive their salaries covering up to seven payrolls as of this week.
“We hope the federal government will also look into delayed salaries of employees,” one of the employees told Saipan Tribune.
Tinian joint leadership meeting
Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz, in a separate interview, said he is calling for a “joint leadership meeting” this week to discuss Dynasty’s casino issues.
The joint leadership meeting will bring together the Tinian Mayor’s Office, the Tinian Legislative Delegation, the Tinian Municipal Council and the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission.
“As far as casino operations are concerned, it’s back to normal as if nothing really happened,” Dela Cruz told Saipan Tribune.
The mayor said the municipality also wants to know why Dynasty was unable to comply with federal requirements as alleged by federal agencies.
Dynasty remits certain revenue percentage to the casino commission.
“Also, I would like to have an incident report from the casino commission,” the mayor added.
IRS also subpoenaed documents from the casino commission. The latter said it has been working on submitting the subpoenaed documents.
Hefty commissioners’ salaries
The annual salaries of two of four Tinian casino commissioners deemed “hefty” are again under the microscope.
The mayor and other officials confirmed that two commissioners appointed by the previous administration on Tinian-Bernadita Palacios and Ike Quichocho-continue to receive $75,000 a year excluding other benefits. This is even higher than the CNMI governor’s salary.
Dela Cruz and other officials had previously asked for voluntary cuts in salaries given the economic conditions on Tinian, to no avail.
Dela Cruz’s own appointees to the casino commission-chair Matthew Masga and Lydia Barcina-have agreed to a lower $60,000 annual salary in keeping with the tough financial times.
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