CCC office is temporarily closed

Five CCC commissioners, 9 employees still around, not clear how they will be paid

The Commonwealth Casino Commission’s office at the Springs Plaza in Gualo Rai was temporarily closed down starting yesterday due to the lack of funds. A notice of the temporary closure was posted at both the entrance and exit doors of the CCC office.

CCC executive director Andrew Yeom has yet to reply to Saipan Tribune’s inquiry about the office’s temporary shutdown.

A CCC staff, however, disclosed yesterday that the office is closed, but the five commissioners are still around and it’s not clear yet how the commissioners will be paid.

The commission still has nine remaining employees after information technology manager Ian Morrell resigned last Nov. 21. Morrell left the CNMI for personal matters, Saipan Tribune learned.

The staff, who requested not be identified, said they were told by the governor’s office that there’s no money to sustain the CCC’s operations.

“We are at zero funding, therefore no money for wages, operations, or for the commissioners’ compensation,” the employee said.

The staff said employees’ contracts are held up at the Office of Management and Budget because there’s no funds.

“Our contracts actually expired on Dec. 31, 2022, but we continued to report to work [while] awaiting the new administration’s assistance and guidance,” the employee said.

The staff said they did request for American Rescue Plan Act funding from the previous Torres administration, but they did not get even a penny of ARPA money.

The employee said that when Gov. Arnold I. Palacios came in, they once again requested for funding assistance from him, and that’s when they found out that ARPA is actually in deficit.

The CCC employees’ last paycheck was on Jan. 13, 2023.

The staff said they, however, are still owed wages from Jan. 1 to 18, 2023.

“Our payroll might be late because funds have to be identified first,” the staff said.

The CCC has been facing a serious budget crisis after Saipan’s lone casino, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, was temporarily closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CCC’s entire source of revenue for its operations comes from IPI’s annual casino regulatory fee of $3,150,000. IPI, however, has failed to pay that fee since 2020. The government gives CCC only a $1 budget.

In May 2021, the CCC had 39 employees. Many employees were then terminated due to budget constraint and others resigned.

The arbitration process between CCC and IPI started last November.

Last Aug. 24, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted IPI’s request for a preliminary injunction against IPI to prohibit the CCC from revoking IPI’s exclusive casino license. Manglona issued the order to allow IPI to pursue its right to arbitration. She ordered CCC to participate in the arbitration process.

Arbitration is a procedure wherein two parties agree on one or more arbitrators to make a decision in their dispute in order to resolve a disagreement outside of court proceedings.

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
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.