‘CCC in serious budget crisis’


Commonwealth Casino Commission board chair Edward C. Deleon Guerrero presides over the CCC board’s monthly meeting Thursday at the Springs Plaza in Gualo Rai. DeLeon Guerrero said CCC is in a serious budget crisis. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

With Saipan’s lone casino temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and no other casino to oversee, the Commonwealth Casino Commission is facing a serious budget crisis, so much so that it is looking at possibly slashing its number of personnel.

At CCC board’s monthly meeting Thursday at the Springs Plaza in Gualo Rai, CCC board chair Edward C. DeLeon Guerrero said he and CCC executive director Andrew Yeom were previously discussing a possibility of implementing a reduction-in-force, which essentially means cutting some positions.

“Should we continue [with] this budget crisis, we have to tighten up the belt even more,” he said.

He said the budget crisis will be discussed further at their executive session.

DeLeon Guerrero also raised a concern about their order that says the annual casino license fee and the casino regulatory fee be paid immediately. He said he does not know whether or not it’s a necessity to have a legal definition of “immediately.”

“But we all know that the annual license fee was due back in August 2020 and the regulatory fee was due on Oct. 1, 2020,” he said.

DeLeon Guerrero said their final order reminded Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC that those fees must be paid immediately.

Last April 22, the CCC board ordered an indefinite suspension of IPI’s gaming license, pay $6.6 million in total penalty in six months, and pay immediately $15.5 million and $3.1 million in annual casino exclusive license fee and annual casino regulatory fee, respectively, for violating many CCC orders.

At the same Thursday meeting, Yeom reported to the board that the CCC has been losing employees.

Yeom said the current head count of full-time employees is at 39, including their legal counsel, assistant attorney general Michael Ernest.

He said the 39 will go down more after procurement officer Don Camacho left last May 15 and acting permit and licensing manager Benjamin Hocog submitted his resignation effective June 5.

“It is sad to see these wonderful and capable people leave as we can only hope for their success in their career maneuvers,” Yeom said.

For now, Yeom said, Arden Sablan is the interim procurement officer.

He said he will soon announce someone from the Permit and Licensing Division to be the next acting manager of that office.

He said he would be presenting and discussing personnel matters during the executive session that day.

Yeom also disclosed that for the month of April 2021, CCC’s total expense was $162,862. Of this total expense, he said, 72.93% was spent on personnel wages and benefits and 16.62% was spent on the board and other compensations.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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