IPI: “We’ll vigorously defend our exclusive rights”

There were rumours the operator would give up its exclusive rights on the island.
There were rumours the operator would give up its exclusive rights on the island.

The Saipan casino operator has said it can’t pay its US$15.5 million annual licence fee due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

Northern Mariana Islands.- Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has denied media reports that it is on the verge of giving up its exclusivity rights for all gambling on Saipan.

The company said in a statement published by Marinas Variety: “To the contrary, IPI will vigorously defend our exclusive rights to all gaming. IPI believes that all gaming activity, such as video poker machines and e-gaming, should be under the exclusive gaming license of IPI and be subject to the oversight of the Commonwealth Casino Commission.”

IPI’s casino licence and exclusivity is subject to a US$15.5 million annual licence fee which was due on August 12.

The operator’s CEO, Donald Browne, sent a letter to the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) the day before requesting an abatement due to the hit the firm’s finances took from the pandemic. But the CCC’s chairman Edward DeLeon Guerrero insisted that “IPI needs to fulfil its obligations.”

The conflict prompted the rumours about IPI giving up its exclusivity rights as it was unable to pay for the licence fee this year.

IPI is currently going through the sixth year of its arrangement, and in its statement requested that the government “consolidate all gaming activity under one regulatory framework as promised.”

In a media interview, House Minority Leader Edwin Propst said that if IPI fails to pay its licence fee, then its exclusivity should be revoked.

In a separate interview, House Gaming Committee Chairman Ralph Yumul said there is a process to be followed before the license can be revoked for lack of payment.

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