“The casino industry must not fail.”
Former House speaker Rafael S. Demapan made the pronouncement Monday at the House of Representatives chamber, during the public hearing for the appointment of the new members of the Commonwealth Casino Commission for the Third Senatorial District, of which he is a nominee.
“We cannot allow this industry to fail,” he said, responding to a question Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) posed for all the nominees on up to what circumstances would Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC be allowed to violate any CNMI rules for the CNMI to revoke its casino license or bid out the license to other companies.
IPI is the lone casino licensee in the CNMI, and CCC commissioners have the power to revoke its license, should it be found to be in violation of federal and CNMI laws.
“Would IPI have to stop paying their taxes completely for a year, would they just stop construction, how bad can the violations have to get before we consider a revocation being justified and perhaps the license being bid out or multiple licenses being considered?” Sablan asked.
Demapan, who described the issue as “very complex,” pointed out that what the CCC needs to do is to emphasize compliance and not just focus on regulating policy.
“When you see deficiency, it’s important that we talk to them, make sure that they’re in compliance so that it is easier for all of us,” he said.
Former CCC executive director Edward C. Deleon Guerrero, also a nominee, echoed that the issue is very complex, and suggested that the commission, in such a case, will issue a complaint, and then based on regulations, issue the licensee 15 days to correct the deficiencies.
“An example of this is when they [IPI] were late on the license agreement. We immediately [started] investigations to determine if the payment has actually been paid, and then we found a claim. Had they not paid that, most likely the next move, the condition will be to suspend the license until they comply with the order,” he added.
Another nominee, former Zoning board chair Mariano Taitano, said it would be difficult for him to support the revocation of the license agreement, “given the fact and the magnitude of investment this company has done on our island[s]. Revocation is kind of strong for me to support.”
“I would rather work with them that they comply with the Casino License Agreement, ensure that they comply and they thrive and contribute to our economy. …Work with them and see what enforcement we need to have them comply with, to support the business to help the entire Commonwealth,” he added.
Sablan later described the three nominees’ responses as “troubling.”
CCC is the government’s casino gaming regulatory agency that oversees the activities of IPI, the exclusive casino licensee operating on Saipan.