NMI senators push to open up casino licences on the islands

Imperial Pacific International's exclusive licence is currently suspended.
Imperial Pacific International's exclusive licence is currently suspended.

Two senators have called for the Senate leadership to act on Senate Bill 22-23, which would allow more casino licences to be granted.

Northern Mariana Islands.- Paul A. Manglona and Edith Deleon Guerrero, members of the Senate’s minority bloc, have called for progress on Senate Bill 22-23. The bill would end Imperial Pacific International’s exclusivity as the only casino licensee on the islands.

According to Manglona and Deleon Guerrero, the economic benefits generated by new casinos could be used to pay a 25 per cent benefit to retirees. The senators note that IPI closed its casino on March 17, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic but that its licence is now suspended, negatively affecting the islands’ economy.

The senators also pushed for Resolution 22-01, which requests Gov. Ralph DLG Torres instruct the Planning and Development Advisory Council to “immediately provide a report” on casinos to the legislature.

Last October, Ralph N Yumul, the house floor leader, introduced a bill to allow five casino licences in Saipan. According to Yumul, the island needed more than one operator since IPI was not able to pay taxes and its US$15m exclusive licence fee.

Back in March, during an interview with Saipan Tribune, Andrew Yeom, the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s executive director, revealed that two New Jersey investors were interested in operating an offline and online casino in Saipan.

The hearing to define the fate of IPI’s casino licence was scheduled for May 24 but was delayed after Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona issued a temporary restraining order preventing the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) from holding it.

In her report, Manglona explained that the damage IPI could suffer from the cancellation of the licence far outweighs the possible damage to the CCC. In addition, she ordered the regulator to appear at a hearing on June 2 to explain why a preliminary injunction should not be issued.

CCC chief Andrew Yeom said he was not satisfied with the request because IPI had to respond to five complaints from the commission, including paying licence fees and settling claims with some suppliers.

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