Imperial Pacific International (IPI), the beleaguered operator of the now-shuttered Imperial Palace casino in Saipan, has reportedly seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It is close to finalizing a deal with casino regulators in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to hold onto its license.
IPI has spent the past couple of years living under the threat of losing its license after it repeatedly refused to pay its bills. It owes tens of millions to the CNMI government and independent companies, which led to its license suspension last year.
Since then, the company has repeatedly found ways to avoid being kicked out of the CNMI completely, even if its parent company thinks it would be the best idea. As it hangs on by a threat, the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) is reportedly ready to make a deal with the operator.
CCC Finalizing Accord with IPI
The gaming regulator and embattled casino operator have spent the past couple of months trying to figure out how to overcome seemingly irreconcilable differences. They are now close, according to the CCC’s executive director, Andrew Yeom.
There is a draft agreement currently in circulation that could put an end to the drama. It reportedly contains solutions for five different complaints IPI must resolve in order to receive its license.
The details of the complaints are not known; however, previous coverage of IPI’s escapades provides an inside look. For example, the company didn’t pay its $15.5-million license fee or its $3.1-million regulatory fee in 2020. It also failed to make a required $20-million contribution to the CNMI’s community benefit fund in 2018 and 2019.
IPI has also neglected to pay off its outstanding private debt. It owes millions of dollars to companies that provided direct and ancillary services for the construction of Imperial Palace. The company also owes more than $5 million to a group of former employees to settle a lawsuit. Despite a court order requiring IPI to make good on all of its private debt, it has yet to do so.
With word of the impending settlement circulating, CNMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona wants the saga to come to an end. She has had to listen to IPI and its lawyers repeatedly over the past couple of years.
The judge now expects the CCC and IPI to present a status of the settlement no later than July 11. Subsequent to that, she expects them to appear for a meeting the following morning to go over the details.
IPI Finds a Way Out
Imperial Palace remains in a state of uncompleted construction, the product of its ineptitude and poor executive leadership. However, it has found a way to finish what it started if the CNMI greenlights its return to business.
The company found several construction firms willing to gamble on getting paid. They will finish the construction, with an independent contractor financing the deal.
In addition, provided it receives its license, IPI will lease some of its hotel rooms and villas. Sino Travel Samoa Limited will take 250 rooms and 15 villas; however, the amount of money it is reportedly willing to pay doesn’t add up.
It places a daily value of $1,000 on each room and $2,400 on each villa. Those are already grossly exaggerated, but the total price of the arrangement, a guaranteed $38.5 million annually, is only possible if all accommodations are occupied every day of the year.
In the meantime, IPI could lose some of its assets at Imperial Palace. Manglona previously authorized the sale of certain equipment to pay off one of the operator’s private debts, provided the CCC agreed. It does, and IPI may have to sell some gaming machines to cover some of the $5.9 million it owes in this case.
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