Babauta, Yeom bicker over IPI’s license

‘CCC moving in direction of revoking IPI’s casino license’

Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan) and Commonwealth Casino Commission executive director Andrew Yeom squabbled Thursday last week during a House Gaming Committee meeting after Babauta accused the CCC of protecting the interest of casino licensee Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC.

Babauta said she finds it frustrating that CCC has not really laid any serious claims against IPI in terms of financial penalties, other than the $6 million it earlier imposed on the company.

The lawmaker said it appears—at least from her viewpoint—that, although the CCC works for the CNMI government, it is reluctant to revoke IPI’s casino license.

“It appears that you guys are protecting their interests, not the CNMI government. So that’s why I have a problem and frustration with it,” she said.

Yeom said he strongly disagrees with Babauta. “How can we be protecting a private company when I work for the Commonwealth,” Yeom asked.

Babauta said she understands due process but CCC is giving IPI so much leeway.

Yeom stated he has no intention of giving any personal favors to IPI but before he could even complete his explanation of what is allowed by law, Babauta interrupted that IPI assets are being sold by the U.S. District Court for the NMI, yet CCC is just sitting by the sidelines. “You’re not claiming a stake in any of their assets and you guys work for the CNMI government,” Babauta said.

Yeom said it is the Department of Finance that is the one that collects the funds and has the liens on IPI.

Yeom said they have already suspended IPI’s casino license and that regulatory suspension means almost a death sentence for IPI. He explained that suspending the license means IPI cannot go anywhere in the international community to get help and raise funds to pay off its debts and obligations.

“It’s pretty much a death sentence,” he pointed out.

Babauta countered that, by stating that the CCC does not know whether IPI’s casino license is going to be revoked or not, that is giving false hope.

Yeom replied that that’s not what he said. He pointed out that he cannot guarantee that IPI’s license is going to be revoked today or tomorrow, but that they are definitely moving in that direction. He said the casino license suspension just happened in the last few months and that he’s been advised by their legal counsel, assistant attorney general Michael Ernest, “to do it every step of the way correctly and legally.”

Yeom said they are giving IPI due process and making sure that the CCC follows the law.
“I’m not here to argue with you,” Yeom told Babauta.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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