GUALO RAI Saipan — The Chicago-based Bridge Investment Group LLC further expanded its casino and golf resort project on Tinian to include additional land and the construction of presidential suites bungalows and individual pools.

Phillip Mendiola-Long vice president for Northern Mariana Islands operations of the Bridge Investment Group said the move is part of efforts to get a slice of Guam’s military market. The U.S. Department of Defense has approved the relocation of some 8 000 military personnel from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

Long said the resort is scheduled to have a grand opening in the second quarter of 2008.

“The investors solidly believe in the Tinian gaming market ” Long told the Journal. “They feel it is prime for a huge growth trend therefore they want to be the first to capitalize with the adequate funding for the market ” he said.

Long said Guam will be a major part of the resort’s marketing plans with “a lot of focus on the military and local market.” Gambling is illegal in Guam which is about 30 minutes away from Tinian by plane.

Aside from Guam Long said they are also eyeing a “stable of charter markets” in Japan Korea China and Tinian’s neighboring island of Saipan.

Long said that aside from the original 400-room casino and 18-hole golf course planned Bridge Investment also wants to build four presidential suites 10 other large suites 130 two-story bungalows and 10 two-story “junior suites ” — all with swimming pools.

Long said Bridge Investment has acquired an additional 25 000 square meters of land for a total combined property footprint of 77 000 square meters. Bridge Investment invested initially in 50 000 square meters. Long did not disclose the purchase price saying only that the contract covers 55 years.

Bridge Investment’s plan was for a 400-room casino. This expanded to include a golf course and a water park in March.

Long said all preliminary permits have been issued; surveys have also been completed; and that the project is currently in its final stage of the architectural and engineering design.

Long said total investment has reached “over $2 million so far.”

The decision to add new changes to the plan was reached in April. “We were finalizing the contract with our general contractor suggestions of efficiency were made regarding the project and we ended up expanding the size in order to fully take advantage of the extreme cost of mobilization ” Long said.

The project was supposed to break ground in June but this was moved to August “due to scheduling conflicts with the owner group ” Long said.

Long said construction is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of this year; soft opening is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2007 and grand opening will be in the second quarter of 2008.

Long said they plan to double the Tinian municipal government’s current annual tax revenue of $3.5 million from the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino.

“So conservatively speaking the Tinian local government could earn as little as $8 million per year from two operating casinos on island ” he said.

“That does not include the multiplier effect of our business associations with suppliers and service providers in the region ” Long said.

In tourist dollars Long said they project at least $90 million a year brought into the NMI market. “That is an additional $4.5 million in BGRT revenue for the CNMI government ” he said.

Long said that other taxes which would be impacted significantly but are not quantified at this time are the fuel tax airport landing tax hotel room occupancy tax bar tax and excise tax.

The facility is expected to be able to employ up to 600 people said Long.

Bridge Investment which obtained a license to build and operate the resort last year is among three investors keen on opening a casino resort on Tinian. The other two are the Marianas Resort Development Co. which broke ground in April; and the Cordish Company which is based in Baltimore and whose officials were on Saipan on May 23 to finalize plans with the local government.

There is only one casino on Tinian the Tinian Dynasty which opened in 1999. By law Tinian is only allowed to have five casino resorts.

With thousands of U.S. military personnel to be relocated in Guam along with their families it is anticipated that the NMI would enjoy a spillover of the economic boom that this would create. MBJ