CNMI urged to authorize second casino license

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Imperial Palace Saipan

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Two Senators have urged the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to push through legislation that would allow the Commonwealth Lottery Commission to issue a second casino license in Saipan should the local regulator revoke the license currently held by Imperial Pacific International (IPI).

In March, the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) ordered the indefinite suspension of Imperial Pacifics casino license after five complaints were filed against the casino operator for failure to comply with certain requirements under its license agreement.

Those five complaints included failure to pay its annual US$15.5 million license fee last August, failure to pay its annual US$3.1 million regulatory fee in October, failure to contribute US$20 million to the community benefit fund in both 2018 and 2019, failure to comply with its minimum US$2 billion capital requirement and failure to comply with a CCC order to pay all money owing to its vendors.

IPI was also given six months to repay both the US$15.5 million casino license fee and US$3.1 million regulatory fee, as well as a US$6.6 million fine, or risk having its license revoked.

According to local media outlet Marianas Variety, Senators Paul Manglona and Edith DeLeon Guerrero have this week asked the Senate leadership to act on two bills, introduced in February and March respectively, that would allow the Commonwealth Lottery Commission to issue a second license in the event that IPIs license is revoked.

One of those bills states, It is more than probable that the exclusive casino operator will not be able to complete the construction of its initial gaming facility and overcome all of its financial and legal problems which may result in the revocation of its casino license. If the exclusive casino license is revoked, the CNMI should take the opportunity to overhaul the casino industry by revisiting the casino statutory provisions and regulations to improve the industry.

With the casino at IPIs Imperial Palace Saipan closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is looking increasingly unlikely that the company will be able to cover all of its obligations.

As reported by IAG, the company was last week ordered by the court to sell its vehicles and electronic gaming machines to repay a US$2.1 million debt to a former contractor, while the CCC has been forced to slash its workforce from 39 to just 16 employees. The CCC is entirely funded by annual fees meant to be paid by IPI under its license agreement.