CCC opposes Senate bill to cancel commissioners’ salaries

The Commonwealth Casino Commission suspended its operations in January due to a lack of funds.
The Commonwealth Casino Commission suspended its operations in January due to a lack of funds.

The Commonwealth Casino Commission is opposing Senate Bill 23-28.

Northern Mariana Islands.- The Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) has again expressed its opposition to Senate Bill 23-28, which seeks to put members of the Community Casino Commission on part-time pay and abolish commissioners’ US$65,000 annual salaries.

The regulator suspended its activities due to a lack of funds, but members are still receiving full-time salaries. The bill was proposed by senator Paul A Manglona and seeks to enforce Section 8247 of the Commonwealth Code, which restricts the salaries of government board and commission members to a maximum of $6,000 per year.

CCC chairman Edward C. Deleon Guerrero has written a letter to Senate Committee on Resources, Economic Development, Programs, and Gaming chairwoman Corina L. Magofna stating that the commission does not support the bill.

Deleon Guerrero disputed the bill’s claim that the current compensation was an “immense financial burden” on the Commonwealth government. He also argued that making the commission a part-time entity would not fulfil the intent of the bill as the CCC is engaged in ongoing legal disputes with the islands’ exclusive casino licensee, Imperial Pacific International (IPI).

The CCC’s appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and arbitration with IPI are scheduled for June 8, 2023, and May 23-25, 2023, respectively. Deleon Guerrero emphasised that the commission is the only entity in the CNMI working to ensure that the casino licensee complies with Commonwealth gaming laws and the casino licence agreement. 

He urged the government to support the commission in enforcing gaming regulations and considering additional casino licences, rather than weakening the regulatory body. The CCC’s sole source of revenue for its operations was IPI’s annual casino regulatory fee of US$3.15m, which has not been remitted since 2020. 

CCC to continue monitoring auctions of IPI gaming assets

The CCC will continue to closely monitor auctions of Imperial Pacific International’s gaming assets. In a meeting held on Tuesday (May 2), CCC vice chairman Ralph S. Demapan said the commission was working with IPI’s security guards as it still has an interest in some of the gaming assets bearing the Commonwealth seal.

Demapan clarified that the items being auctioned were only gaming assets. The next auction is scheduled for June. Meanwhile, chairman Edward C. Deleon Guerrero said commissioners needed to identify all the individuals involved beyond IPI’s security guards.

Guerrero added that IPI should track the gaming equipment being sold and negotiate with the court-appointed receiver, Clear Management. Demapan said Clear Management should have a complete inventory of the gaming assets based on his conversations with IPI’s security guards and that anything sold would be itemised.

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Commonwealth Casino Commission