SAN JOSE Tinian — The Tinian Gaming Control Commission gave the Chicago-based Bridge Investment Group LLC the nod to start the first phase of its hotel and casino resort project on the island.

Phillip Mendiola-Long vice president for the Northern Mariana Islands of Bridge Investment Group told the Journal that the commission completed its financial investigation of the company and during a July 17 public hearing on Tinian issued a resolution stating that the body finds Bridge’s funding source “suitable.”

According to Mendiola-Long Resolution 06-01 also states that the commission has a “high level of confidence” in Bridge’s finances and a “strong belief” that the proposed hotel and casino resort will now be constructed and completed consistent with the requirements of the Casino Act.”

The commission through its resolution ruled that Bridge Investment Group is qualified to receive a casino operator’s license by virtue of the law Mendiola-Long said.

“The project is approved for a first phase development of $55 million which will incorporate costs up to opening ” Mendiola-Long said.

Mendiola-Long also said that Bridge Investment Group is working on obtaining approval by the local government to bring tourists from China to Tinian as part of preparations for the casino resort’s operations.

“We are working with the attorney general’s office to get appointed as a Visitor Entry Permit issuer in China.  The AGO said that our draft agreement for that appointment is currently under review. 

“Once approved the AGO will then proceed to investigate our travel agencies in China to verify our capability to serve as the NMI’S agent to issue VEP’s in China ” Mendiola-Long said.

A Visitor Entry Permit is among the requirements needed for tourists from China to enter the NMI. The Chinese government approved the NMI’s petition for an Approved Destination Status and signed an agreement with then Gov. Juan N. Babauta on Dec. 30 2004 in Beijing.

An Approved Destination Status allows the NMI to directly promote the islands in China. The second and third phases of Bridge’s project which involves additional funding of up to $70 million will incorporate operating capital as well as potential developments such as a golf course aquarium and condominiums.

Mendiola-Long said “As it is planned now the project will have two 100-room standard hotel towers 166 bungalow units which will service longer staying guests and high-rollers two swimming pools a shopping center a wedding chapel a convention center four restaurants a world class spa and fitness center and Tinian’s first museum.” He said Bridge Investment is currently interviewing hotel and casino management companies for partnerships.

‘We should have negotiations finalized with our choices by mid 2007.  Project completion is still on schedule for an opening in April or June 2008 ” Mendiola-Long told the Journal.

The project has a combined property footprint of 77 000 square meters. Groundbreaking is tentatively set for December.

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