Published on: August 30, 2022, 12:31 p.m.
Last updated: August 30, 2022, 12:31 p.m.
Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has once again managed to hang on to its exclusive casino license in Saipan. A judge stepped in and granted an injunction against the company to stop the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) from taking further action.
CCC and IPI have been locked in a battle that follows years of neglect and failure to comply with IPI’s regulatory requirements. However, despite owing around $100 million to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), it always finds a way to survive.
The gambling regulator wanted to withdraw the casino’s license due to financial debts and also because IPI did not present the investment it claimed to have secured months ago. In its latest attempt to block it, it argued that it had the right to seek arbitration. NMI Chief Justice Ramona Manglona agreed.
No relief in sight
IPI missed a deadline to produce the investment it apparently attracted from a Hong Kong investment group. He said he would get $150 million, but would only have received a small percentage of the funds.
That was in June. With no other indication that IPI had made progress since then, the CCC was poised to finally determine the fate of the integrated resort operator Imperial Palace in Saipan. The property has been closed for over a year and shows no signs of being able to come back to life.
However, Judge Manglona has now ordered IPI and CCC to arbitrate. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) will conduct the proceedings accordingly Saipan Tribune, at the request of the IPI. The position of the company is that of a non-binding arbitrator. This will still leave the door open for IPI to lose its license.
IPI has consistently persuaded the court system to extend a temporary restraining order (TRO) against CCC to prevent it from taking action. Three applications and three approvals since May have prolonged the Saipan saga. However, for all IPI’s failures to produce funding, the order is its anchor to keep the CCC at bay for now.
The CCC and IPI are now working with the AAA to set a schedule for the arbitration hearings.
The FBI pays a visit to the CNMI legislator
Six years ago, at the beginning of the IPI debacle in the CNMI, the FBI descended on Saipan. He left with boxes full of records as well as digital equipment, responding to allegations that the company had broken financial and labor laws.
Three years ago, the FBI returned. This time, he also showed an interest in the governor of the CNMI, Ralph Torres. Although nothing more came of it, the FBI returned, this time talking to another government official.
The Saipan Tribune reported that Department of Public Lands Secretary Sixto K. Igisomar received a visit from the G-men on August 16. They subpoenaed him to testify before a federal grand jury; however, Igisomar would not explain the nature of the case.
The lawmaker was previously secretary of the Department of Commerce. In this capacity, he was also chairman of the Commonwealth Lottery Casino. That entity was responsible for granting IPI its exclusive casino licenses in 2014.
Representative Ralph N. Yumul also received a visit from the FBI. He has not received a subpoena, but confirmed that agents have inquired about his involvement in the development of casino gaming laws. Yumul said he did not support it, but supports another initiative. He recently introduced legislation to allow up to five casinos in Saipan.