IPI open to losing casino exclusivity

5 casino operators a possibility

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LCC’s inability to pay the $15.5 million annual license fee this year could possibly be seen as an opportunity for the Legislature to revisit the statute and to open up casino licenses to more applicants.

That would mean IPI possibly losing its exclusivity on Saipan but not its license, said IPI general counsel Michael Dotts over the weekend.

Dotts said this in response to Saipan Tribune’s request for an update on any development pertaining to IPI’s failure to pay the license fee by the deadline and IPI’s request for a delay in paying $3 million to fund the operations of the Commonwealth Casino Commission. Dotts said he believes that the CNMI government is working on a response to IPI’s request.

He said it has been hinted to him that the government will not be receptive to a reduction in the $15-million annual casino license fee or the $3 million payment that covers CCC’s operations because IPI has an exclusive license and the cost of that exclusivity was the payment of the very high annual license fee and the full cost of operating CCC.

If the Legislature decides to allow five casino licenses, Dotts said the fee could go down to $3 million each and that IPI could possibly afford to pay this in the current economic situation.

If there were five casinos, then each one could pay $600,000 to cover the operation of CCC, he added.

“Five casinos might bring in more total players and the benefit for the CNMI would be compounded by the increased business activity of so many more casinos and more casino operations,” the lawyer said.

In a letter to CNMI leaders last week, IPI chief executive officer Donald R. Browne said that IPI would not be able to pay the annual license fee by the deadline last Wednesday. Browne also proposed that payment of the $3 million to support the operations of CCC that IPI owes by this October be delayed until 30 days before the scheduled reopening of IPI’s casino in Garapan.

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic that grips the world, Browne described what happened as a classic “force majeure,” an event that effects more than just IPI and that is beyond IPI’s control.

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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