IPI requests licence fee reduction

The CCC has said IPI should lose its licence due to unpaid debts.
The CCC has said IPI should lose its licence due to unpaid debts.

The Saipan casino operator has written to the Commonwealth Casino Commission saying it cannot pay it US$15.5m fee this year.

Northern Mariana Islands.- Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has written to the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) formally requesting an abatement on its US$15.5 million annual licence fee.

According to the document, IPI says it will not be able to pay the fee, which was due yesterday (Wednesday August 12) due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the letter, chief executive officer (CEO) Donald Browne says the company has been without income for the last five months. IPI’s casino on Saipan closed in March due to the pandemic.

He added: “It does not appear that international flights will resume until January 2021. It does not seem likely that tourism to the CNMI will begin again until May 2021. In all likelihood IPI will remain closed, and have no income, for the next eight months.”

The CEO argues the pandemic falls into the category of “classic force majeure”, which under the licence agreement is contemplated as cause for relief on the licence payment.

IPI also requested the postponement of payment of US$3 million to support the operation of the CCC. However, the CCC has already been calling for IPI to lose its licence due to debts with the Northern Marina Islands’ community.

Under its licence agreement, IPI must pay a fee of US$20 million per year to a benefit fund that supports community projects on the islands, and that amount has been unpaid since 2018.

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