Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) questions why no gaming revenue tax is being collected from the operations of casino operator Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC on Saipan.
Propst said there’s no section in Public Law 18-38, which allowed a casino to operate in the CNMI, that prohibits the CNMI from imposing a gaming revenue tax on the casino operator.
The same holds true for PL 18-43 and 18-56 that amended some provisions in the original act, he added.
House vice speaker Janet U. Maratita (R-Saipan) has already introduced House Bill 20-31 that would impose a 5 percent tax on all gaming revenues in the CNMI. HB 20-31 is now with the House Ways and Means Committee headed by Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan).
Propst said IPI only pays an annual license fee of $15 million and the standard 5 percent business gross revenue tax collected. He added $15 million a year is a drop in the bucket for IPI.
“Fifteen million dollars a year is peanuts for what they are raking in when compared to what we would be receiving if we actually had a gross [gaming] revenue tax implemented from the beginning,” added Propst.
IPI reported a $32.37-billion rolling chip volume in the 2016 calendar year and $5.59 billion rolling chip volume in January this year. Rolling chip volume is a casino revenue measurement, which is the sum of all non-negotiable chips played and lost by VIP gamblers.
Propst said that Macau collects 35 percent from its gross gaming revenue taxes and an additional 5 percent from other taxes for an almost 50 percent income collected by the government of one of China’s two special administrative regions. Hong Kong is the other SAR.
He pointed out that Saipan is the only place in the world that does not impose taxes on gross gaming revenues. “We get zero. [Business gross revenue taxes] is not counted because all businesses pay that unless they are tax exempt.”
“We have the only casino industry in the world that charges zero on gross gaming revenue taxes.”
Maratita’s HB 20-31 aims to correct that. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had said before that he encourages taxes for the new casino.
“When you encourage casino gaming, you start an investment and eventually we should tax it. No ifs, no buts. Definitely we will tax them, but we need them to get the investment started first,” Torres said in an earlier statement.
Other issues with IPI
Propst also lashed out at IPI following pictures posted on social media sites showing a huge pile of debris at the construction site of the Imperial Pacific Resort in Garapan. A trash fire broke out in an area where the multi-million dollar casino-resort is being built.
Propst said he was surprised why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not inspected the site and imposed fines for possible violations. “It is unbelievable that they are allowed to continue in that environment. I have never seen a more polluted and debris-filled construction site ever.”
He suggested that what IPI could do is to ship off-island the debris and other trash from the construction site.
Propst is also proposing that IPI provide a traffic light at the intersection of Garapan Elementary School and Cha Café and Bakery to ease the congestion in the area, especially during the rush hour.
He said IPI closed down the entire Coral Tree Avenue right in front of the hotel’s construction site, contributing to traffic in the area. “Would it be too much to ask them to pay for a traffic light at the intersection since it is the main turn to their casino?”