IPI OK’d to get $690K from casino cage

CCC board suspends $1M minimum bankroll requirement for IPI

The Commonwealth Casino Commission board approved yesterday an order that temporarily suspends or adjusts the $1-million minimum bankroll requirement for Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC in order for IPI to get the estimated $688,000 to $690,000, mostly in foreign currency, that are stored in IPI’s casino cage and put it in a secure place.

At the board’s monthly meeting at the Springs Plaza in Gualo Rai, the CCC board unanimously approved a CCC order to suspend the requirement for IPI to maintain $1 million in its casino cage. The commission earlier made that a requirement in February 2019.

With the money being freed up from IPI’s casino cage, CCC chair Edward C. Deleon Guerrero and commissioner Ramon Dela Cruz urged IPI chief executive officer Donald Browne to prioritize employees’ payrolls using that money.

Browne agreed and said he will do whatever he can within his power as CEO, but also stated it’s complicated. “That’s really a small bit of money. To be honest, it sounds like a lot to us as individuals,” he said.

Browne estimated that the money amounts to about $690,000.

Court documents showed that, according to a former IPI contractor, they identified during an inspection of the cage $46,201 in U.S. currency and $642,207 in foreign currencies.

Browne said they have obligations to pay their debts. “So we take it out for our first obligation, we should pay the players. But we want to try and do some of those to pay our employees,” Browne said.

The matter becomes complicated, Browne said, because they have to worry about how they’re going to handle the transaction in general foreign currency.

“We just want to be able to take that to a more secure location because we don’t have a gaming [operation],” Browne said.

Deleon Guerrero said the purpose behind the minimum bankroll requirement was to assure that there will be no wagering without the ability to pay. “So that was basically an amount reserved to pay whoever wins,” he said.

However, in light of the fact that there has been no casino gaming since March due to COVID-19, it appears that the request to suspend or reverse the formula down to zero is valid, Deleon Guerrero said.

Commonwealth Casino Commission chair Edward C. Deleon Guerrero presides over CCC’s monthly meeting yesterday at the CCC conference room at Springs Plaza in Gualo Rai. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

He said his concern is mostly for the protection and safety of the money, knowing that the security at the Imperial Pacific Resort is not as robust as it used to be, and the possibility that an unpaid employee who know the combination to the safe in the cage or has keys to the case may try to get it.

The chairman believes it’s prudent at this time to suspend that particular requirement—to maintain a minimum of $ 1 million in the cage—until such time that gaming is allowed to recommence.

He said they will revisit the minimum bankroll requirement months down the line, before they even entertain any IPI request to reopen. “And we would absolutely demand that amount or even maybe more be…put back into the cage. But, right now, I think allowing them to take it out and put in the bank where it’s safer might be the better option,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Dela Cruz hopes that the money will be used to pay IPI workers, especially those who have already left the Commonwealth and are back in their own countries. “Pay them off,” Dela Cruz told Browne, adding that this will also demonstrates Browne’s sincerity in taking care of IPI employees.

Browne replied that payroll is his priority.

Assistant attorney general Michael Ernest, who is the CCC legal counsel, said the new CCC order does not affect in any way IPI’s obligation to have the minimum operating cost.

“This just stops the general requirement regarding the money in the cage. So it’s not that there’s no minimum bankroll,” Ernest said.

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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