Imperial Pacific prohibited from working with junkets amid fears over China blacklist

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Imperial Palace Saipan

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Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC has been effectively banned from working with junkets in yet another blow to its efforts to remain feasible.

According to a report by Marianas Variety, the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) of the Northern Mariana Islands has issued an order prohibiting the issuance or renewal of any licenses related to junket activity a decision said to be in response to threats from mainland China over cross-border gambling.

As reported by Inside Asian Gaming, Chinas Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced last August that it had established a blacklist of overseas tourist destinations it said were disrupting the nations outbound tourism market by opening casinos targeting mainland Chinese customers, and promised to enforce travel restrictions upon those named on the blacklist.

That promise, seemingly targeting jurisdictions and operators utilizing junkets, resulted in the CCC stating such restrictions could havevery serious implications not only on casino gambling here but on the tourism industry in general.

CNMI Governor Ralph Torres is also said to have written to the CCC earlier this month expressing concerns about the present junket program and asking that they revisit this provision of the regulations, repeal this allowance for junket operator licenses, and enact the necessary safeguards and penalties to ensure that the operations of the casino licensee do not permit junket activities within the casino.

In response, the CCC said it has now determined that a comprehensive review of the junket program is warranted and no licenses under the present program should be renewed, nor new licenses issued until a comprehensive review has occurred, and new regulations are promulgated which address the governors concerns.

IPI garnered headlines around the world in 2017 after reporting VIP rolling chip volume of US$32.4 billion across just 16 VIP tables for the previous year a figure that defied belief given The Venetian Macaos 100 VIP tables generated roll of US$28.9 billion.

However, the company has since reported significant problems collecting on its debts with trade receivables still owing totaling HK$9.05 billion (US$1.17 billion) as of late last year. IPIs Saipan casino, Imperial Palace Saipan, has been closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This latest junket blow comes after IPI was informed last Friday that its casino license had been suspended for failure to comply with certain requirements under its license agreement. The company has six months to pay more than US$25 million fees and fines or risk having its license revoked.