IPI asks court to set aside CCC order suspending its license
Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC is asking the court to set aside the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s order that indefinitely suspends its gaming license, claiming that the order is not in accordance with the law.
In a petition for judicial review filed by IPI last May 21 and heard by the Superior Court last Tuesday, IPI claims that CCC’s order to indefinitely suspend its license, among other things, was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with the law as CCC did not consider, determine, or reasonably base its order upon the appropriate applications of principles of force majeure under CNMI law.
Force majeure relieves two parties from performing their obligations under a binding contract when circumstance out of their control arises, resulting in one or both of the parties becoming unable to carry out their obligations.
The event IPI argues warrants a force majeure is the COVID-19 pandemic that was recognized by the Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and the Lottery Commission in an amendment to the Casino License Agreement that was executed on Dec. 15. 2020.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unexpected major unpredicted global event that has already lasted almost six months and generally expected to last for many more months to come, Imperial Pacific’s current ability to make payments that are currently in arrears has been impacted. On or about March 17, 2020, Imperial Pacific closed the operation of its casino in CNMI, citing diminished tourists to the CNMI and the present unknown as to when tourism may property resume,” the amendment states.
Because of the cited amendments, IPI argues that CCC’s order was unwarranted and the proceedings that the order was based on were held without observance of procedure required by law.
“The CCC, in making its findings, improperly relied on material not in the evidentiary record, including, without limitation, the 2020 annual report of IPI’s indirect parent company. IPI did not have an opportunity to challenge, examine, or rebut the conclusions drawn from the CCC’s consideration of such evidence,” the suit states.
Aside from the suspension of its license, CCC’s order also requires IPI to pay penalties totaling $6.6 million, orders IPI to pay a total of $18.6 million purportedly due under the Casino License Agreement and applicable regulation, and directs IPI to comply with previous orders issued by the CCC.
CCC suspended IPI’s license last April following various complaints against it for failure to comply with certain requirements under its license agreement.