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IPI’s fate in the crosshairs

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Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said he, Attorney General Edward Manibusan, the Commonwealth Casino Commission, the Legislature, and the Department of Finance need to sit down to decide on what is the ultimate goal and plan for Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC.

When asked about at a radio news briefing last Friday about his position on IPI’s request to postpone the payment of the $15.5 million casino license fee, Torres said that, based on his conversation with Manibusan, CCC, and the Legislature, he and any other entities have no authority to remove the amount or extend the payment time and, since the agreement with IPI is a partnership with the CNMI, Torres said would like to get the Legislature’s take on the casino licensee’s proposal. If the Legislature wants to approve IPI’s request, then that’s something that they would like to work with, together with the AG, and CCC.

“Because this is not just a one-time request, or one-time issue. It’s a yearly issue. There’s other issues that’s pending with IPI,” Torres said.

He said they would also like to know about IPI’s goal in the next five years, considering their arrears not only to the government but also to some vendors.

“But, ultimately, just like every other companies, we would like to keep them here and continue doing business,” the governor said.

At the same time, Torres said, every company needs to put in their share.

He said IPI is having a hard time and is asking for help. Torres said he, the Legislature, the attorney general, CCC, and the Division of Tax and Revenue have to sit down and see “where do we go from here.”

At a recent meeting with members of the House of Representatives Gaming Committee, IPI officials disclosed that they have a $150-million funding commitment and that what they need is a strong partnership with the CNMI government and not a threat to revoke its exclusive casino license.

IPI chief executive officer Donald R. Browne said they have financial troubles but is still committed to the CNMI. “It’s not the time to threaten to revoke somebody’s license in the middle of a pandemic,” said Browne.

CCC acting executive director Andrew Yeom recently filed a complaint against IPI over its failure to pay $15.5 million in annual casino license fee that was due last Aug. 12. On Aug. 26, 2020, Browne asked the CNMI government to be allowed to pay the $15.5 million in 2029 instead—the 15th year of the casino license.

Saying that IPI may be required to remain closed for the majority of this year due to the government-mandated shutdown, Browne also told Torres that they are also asking that the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s $3 million regulatory fee be reduced to $1 million as the cessation of gaming requires less oversight.

Browne also stated that by allowing poker machines and e-gaming to operate outside of the casino, the CNMI is in violation of the exclusive license IPI holds.

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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