Commonwealth Casino Commission board chair Edward C. Deleon Guerrero questions Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s logic in its claim that the continued existence of poker arcades and e-gaming in the CNMI has affected the financial viability of its Imperial Palace Resort in Garapan.
Speaking at a recent CCC board monthly meeting, Deleon Guerrero reminded IPI chief executive officer Donald R. Browne that, based on IPI’s performance, 5% or even less of their earnings came from slot machines and that the remaining 92%-95% have always been from the VIP tables.
Deleon Guerrero was reacting to Browne’s Aug. 26 letter to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, during which he claimed that, by allowing poker machines and e-gaming to operate outside of the casino, the CNMI is in violation of the exclusive casino license that IPI holds.
Deleon Guerrero asked Browne to elaborate more on that letter but Browne said that they are still waiting for the governor to respond. When asked if Browne was expecting Torres to say, “Okay, no problem,” the IPI CEO replied that it’s just the process that they are taking.
CCC vice chair Ramon Dela Cruz said he’s disturbed with IPI raising the issue about allowing poker machines and e-gaming to operate outside of the casino and its implication that Club C and other facilities taking away business from IPI. “I thought that this was very obvious during the negotiation with the Lottery Commission,” said Dela Cruz, citing that these establishments were already operating before even IPI came here.
“And that was permitted by law. Why raise that issue now?” Dela Cruz asked.
Browne reiterated IPI’s position about the CNMI allowing the proliferation of gambling outside the casino.
CCC legal counsel assistant attorney general Michael Ernest said he believes that CCC can wait for the Office of the Attorney General to have an opinion about the issue. His gut feeling, however, is that the casino license itself says it’s subject to all other laws.
He said the casino gaming law, Public Law 18-56, doesn’t say all gaming. Ernest said IPI understands that their market is not locals.
“Their market always was and presently is off-island tourists. So I’m not willing to say yes or no but those are just my thoughts going into this,” he said.