Saying the Commonwealth Casino Commission is in dire need of financial assistance, CCC board chair Edward C. DeLeon Guerrero and CCC executive director Andrew Yeom have asked the central government for $1 million to prevent the commission’s shutdown by April 2022.
Specifically, DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom said the $1 million could be taken from the annual casino license fee.
In a letter to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation chair Sen. Vinnie Vinson F. Sablan (R-Saipan) last Friday, DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom asked for their assistance in allocating and appropriating $1 million to CCC from funds available to the 3rd Senatorial District (Saipan and Northern Islands) from the 2019 annual casino license fee.
Both CCC officials said the $1 million will cover the commission’s expenses for five months—from May to September 2022.
The pointed out that CCC continues to suffer from a severe budget shortfall after Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC failed to pay its 2020 annual casino regulatory fee.
Due to budget constraints, the CCC management terminated many of its employees last June, resulting in the loss of 60% of its staff.
DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom said they have reduced all their operational expenses to the bare minimum and that they will continue to do so in every way possible. “At this time, we once again [plead] for your help in keeping the commission afloat to enable the Commonwealth to continue its casino industry by maintaining the presence of the casino regulatory body,” the CCC officials said.
With the casino closed since March last year, it has had zero revenue for several months now and IPI has been unable to honor its contractual obligations as outlined in the Casino License Agreement and as required by the CNMI gaming laws.
DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom said IPI claimed that their current financial predicament is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the required quarantined measures and closure of gaming operations implemented by the CNMI government.
IPI has challenged CCC’s suspension of its gaming license in the Superior Court by filing an appeal.
DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom said it is imperative that CCC maintains its presence to continue the ongoing litigation with IPI over its violations of the Casino License Agreement and casino gaming laws.
The CCC officials believe that it is critical for the CNMI to enable the casino industry to be revived and continue to contribute to the Commonwealth’s financial recovery efforts.
They said the Saipan casino industry requires the continued existence of CCC.
Further, they said, Public Law 21-38 granted CCC the authority to issue a new gaming license should IPI’s license be revoked.
DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom said CCC is in dire need of financial assistance to enable to continue its regulatory enforcement of gaming laws and to see to it that IPI is afforded due process in its appeal.
“It would be reckless and irresponsible to shut down the regulatory body that pursued enforcement actions against the licensee without making every attempt possible to collect what is due to the CNMI,” they said.
DeLeon Guerrero and Yeom said CCC cannot continue to operate at its current funding level. They said if additional funding is not made available to the CCC soon, it will be forced to close its operations by the end of April 2022.
They anticipated, however, that additional funding may be available to CCC as part of its casino regulatory fee by the end of September 2022 through resolution and/or settlement of ongoing litigations with IPI.