Will Saipan’s Watchdog Issue Second Casino License?

Imperial Pacific International’s (IPI) license was suspended recently over five complaints related to unpaid fees. While the operator’s license may be revoked, two Senators have reportedly asked the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC), the casino regulator for Saipan, to issue a second casino license.

IPI’s License in Saipan Suspended

Last year, IPI’s Imperial Palace venue in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After that, earlier this year, the CCC ordered an indefinite suspension of the casino’s license. Under the order, effective from May 10, IPI’s license was suspended.

The suspension came after five raised complaints related to the operator’s failure to settle annual fees. Two complaints date to 2018 and 2019, when IPI failed to contribute some $20 million to the community benefit fund. Furthermore, a complaint was raised regarding failure to settle a $3.1-million regulatory fee in October last year.

IPI also failed to pay a $15.5 million license fee last year in August, which led to another complaint. To top it all off, CCC found that IPI failed to pay money it owed to vendors and did not comply with its $2 billion capital requirement. Besides the owed debt, the fledgling casino operator’s exclusive license is endangered and may be revoked, and the operator must also pay a $6.6 million fine.

A Bill Proposes Second Casino License to Be Issued

Now, according to the news outlet Marianas Variety, two senators have urged the regulator to issue a second casino license in Saipan, considering that IPI’s license is suspended. Furthermore, Senators Paul A. Manglona and Edith Deleon Guerrero revealed that they are concerned that Senate Bill 22-23 is not moving forward.

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.

Senate Bill 22-23

SB 22-23, proposes to overhaul the casino industry in case IPI’s exclusive casino license is revoked. The bill acknowledges that the exclusive casino operator may not be able to overcome its financial and legal problems, which may ultimately result in revoke of its license. Furthermore, SB 22-23 acknowledges the difficulties that IPI is experiencing with the construction of its gaming facility.

Undoubtedly, those are rough times for IPI. Considering the piled-up fees, the fine and the risk of CCC revoking the operator’s license, it is unclear how the operator is going to be able to continue forward. Hopefully, IPI is going to get through all of those hardships. If not, the Senators’ proposal may come in handy and help restart the gaming industry in Saipan.