Posted on: May 6, 2022, 05:25h. 

Last updated on: May 6, 2022, 11:46h.

Imperial Pacific International may not have a choice but to abandon its Imperial Palace casino dreams in Saipan. Its parent company reportedly told it to get out of the casino business because it cannot continue paying its debts.

Imperial Palace
Saipan’s Imperial Palace, still with construction equipment as its operations came to a halt. Imperial Pacific International, the company behind the casino, may never find a way to complete the project. (Image: Picasa)

Imperial Pacific International (IPI) dug its own grave in Saipan. It repeatedly refused to pay its bills and dealt with one criminal case after another. Still, the company thought it could keep its aspirations of making the Imperial Palace casino resort a world-class destination alive. Some $3.9 billion later, the property is a ghost town.

That might not happen, and not because the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) recommends that IPI should lose its license. Instead, faced with tens of millions of dollars in bad debt, IPI’s own parent company thinks it needs to give up. It no longer wants to pay for negligence and poor management.

Throw in the Towel

IPI is meeting once again with the CNMI Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) this week about its license and future in Saipan. Marianas Variety reports that the company acknowledged that its Hong Kong-based parent company believes it’s time to call it quits.

CCC Chairman Edward C. Deleon Guerrero asked IPI HR Director Redie Dela Cruz last week, “At what point in time do you recommend [that] the company throw in the towel, and just let the employees know IPI is closing shop?” To that, Dela Cruz responded that she already presented such a recommendation to the company. However, she only made the suggestion verbally and did not put it in writing.

IPI has a solid track record of mistakes. From FBI investigations to slave labor, and from bad debt with contractors to bad debt with the government. It has received orders several times to keep up with employee pay. However, it recently missed again. Employees didn’t receive two paychecks last month, a standard occurrence at the company.

Almost the only order IPI complied with was one that required it to give $250,000 to the US Department of Labor (DOL). Those funds are part of a court order that wanted there to be money to pay wages in the event the company failed once again. However, the DOL, according to the company’s testimony yesterday, has not released the funds.

IPI still faces another hearing with the CCC about its license, and the continued lack of compliance could be the final nail in the coffin. The commission scheduled a hearing for May 3 to discuss what happens next, but later delayed it until May 24.

IPI Open to Competition

IPI has exclusive control of Saipan’s casino market through its contract with CNMI, a decision that, in hindsight, was ill-conceived. Earlier this year, the subject of allowing an additional license came up with regulators. However, it failed quickly.

CCC Executive Director Andrew Yeom said that it would most likely be unconstitutional to erase the exclusivity. IPI was happy with the response at the time, but has apparently now changed its mind.

IPI interim CEO Tao Xing, who has only been on the job for less than two months, told the CCC in last week’s meeting that the company is “open to the idea” of a second casino operator in Saipan. Of course, it’s easier to agree to an unfavorable change when it faces an unsurmountable legal roadblock.