The Commonwealth Casino Commission declined to comment on Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s compliance with the Casino License Agreement regarding its payment to what is termed as a Community Benefit Fund.
In a letter dated Nov. 26, 2019, to the House Committee on Gaming, CCC executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero noted that the commission is unable to respond as to the status of the Community Benefit Fund due to an ongoing investigation on the matter. He did not elaborate on that investigation.
Deleon Guerrero was responding to a letter dated Oct. 18, 2019, that House Gaming Committee chair Rep. Ralph Yumul (R-Saipan) had sent to CCC and Deleon Guerrero to ask for information on IPI’s compliance with the Casino License Agreement, or CLA, regarding the Community Benefit Fund, also known as a community chest and is supposed to have money intended to benefit the CNMI community.
Deleon Guerrero pointed out in his letter that the Office of the Governor also has authority over the CLA.
“The Office of the Governor also has concurrent enforcement authority over the CLA,” Deleon Guerrero wrote. His letter did not clarify if he was referring to the CNMI Lottery Commission, or the body that oversaw the creation of the CLA as well as confirm its amendments.
“Please be assured that upon the completion of our investigation, we will update your committee on our findings and determinations,” added Deleon Guerrero.
Yumul’s letter alleges that the IPI owes the Community Benefit Fund about $17 million, pursuant to the CLA. Yumul cited audited financial statements for the years that ended Dec. 31, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2018. The same letter was also sent to the Lottery Commission, asking both to report to the Gaming Committee the status of IPI’s compliance with the CLA.
Saipan Tribune obtained a copy of that letter last Oct. 24, 2019.
According to Section 16 of the CLA, IPI is required to contribute $10 million to the Community Benefit Fund no later than Jan. 1, 2018, and another $10 million no later than June 1, 2018. Subsequently, IPI is required to pay $20 million to the community chest every year, beginning on or before Oct. 1, 2019.
The funds are supposed to be distributed to support community benefit programs such as education, scholarships, health care, and retirement benefits, among others, in consultation with the governor.
“…Austerity measures for the Commonwealth government have continued into fiscal year 2020, and many critical public services and programs that have been hampered by shortfalls in funding could be greatly assisted with distributions from the Community Benefit Fund,” Yumul wrote in his letter.
“The exclusive [CLA] is a contract between IPI and the Commonwealth government, and the licensee must be held accountable for honoring all of its promises, including its Community Benefit Fund obligations,” he added.