CNMI warns Imperial Pacific to pay debts

The CCC has suspended Imperial Pacific International's casino licence.
The CCC has suspended Imperial Pacific International's casino licence.

Ralph Torres, governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, has said that if IPI doesn’t pay its arrears, the government will take “the next step.”

Northern Mariana Islands.- Governor Ralph Torres has warned that if Imperial Pacific does not settle its debts, the government will “take the next step and move on.”

According to the Saipan Tribune newspaper, Torres said: “As of now, I hope they can take care of their arrears and continue to do business here. But if not, then we have to take the next step and we move on.”

A judge in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Island has ordered IPI to pay $5.9m after ruling in favour of seven Chinese workers who suffered mistreatment from the company.

That comes on top of multiple penalties the Commonwealth Casino Commission board already ordered IPI to pay.

According to the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC), Imperial Pacific International violated five orders including a failure to pay its US$3.1m annual regulatory fee in 2020 and failure to comply with an order to settle debts with vendors.

The Commonwealth Casino Commission has ordered the suspension of Imperial Pacific International’s gaming licence until the company meets the required payments. Imperial Pacific has appealed against the decision.

Juan T. Lizama, IPI’s lawyer, filed the appeal, and the CCC commissioners have agreed to make a technical amendment to the order.

According to Saipan Tribune newspaper, assistant attorney general Michael Ernest, counsel for CCC executive director Andrew Yeom, reported a technical error in the CCC board’s order against IPI. Ernest asked the board to reconsider the final order to correct the error.

The Commonwealth Casino Regulator faces economic crisis due to Covid-19

The CCC is facing a budget crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Saipan’s only casino has been closed due to the pandemic and licence fees and arrears have still not been paid.

According to local media, board chair Edward C. DeLeon Guerrero has warned if the crisis continues, the CCC will have to cut some positions.

Authorities are seeking to approve online gaming but some doubts remain as Representative Tina Sablan argues that it could lead to money laundering.

Sablan opposed a request for House Bill 22-47 to be pulled out from the Gaming Committee so the full House of Representatives could act on it.

She said: “There are serious concerns that are raised by this internet gaming bill that were concerns in the last legislature. Those issues have not gone away and they are the subject of investigation right now.”

However, former vice-speaker Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero has argued online gaming has no greater risk and could help generate revenue for the CNMI following the closure of the casino industry for many months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Guerrero said: “This is another form [of gaming] that we should tap because there’s a lot of investors willing to open [internet] gaming, but [in the] absence of a piece of legislation, no investors would want to invest here in the CNMI. This is something that we should look at thoroughly.”

In this article: