Posted on: November 30, 2022, 10:28h. 

Last updated on: November 30, 2022, 11:01h.

The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Imperial Pacific International (IPI) are trying to find a solution to their ongoing battle. This involves mediation through an independent arbitrator, and the process that will determine the future of the Imperial Palace casino in Saipan is now underway.

Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace casino in Saipan sits abandoned and under construction. The property’s owner, Imperial Pacific International, is in arbitration with the Commonwealth Casino Commission to put their differences to rest. (Image: Saipan Tribune)

Last week, the CNMI’s Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) and IPI appeared virtually before an arbitrator for the first time. Andrew Yeom, executive director of the CCC, informed the regulator’s board that they held their first status conference with the arbitrator via a virtual platform.

Yeom stated that the parties had identified the issue in summary and discussed, among other matters, the deadlines and procedural rules. He revealed that CCC had submitted the requested documents to the arbitrator last November 16 to get the ball rolling.

Imperial Palace’s Future Hangs in the Balance

Subsequent to that initial presentation of information, which likely included details of the roughly $100 million IPI owes the CNMI, both CCC and IPI sent agenda items to the arbitrator on November 21. Monday, in remarks to the Saipan Tribune, Yeom stated that he couldn’t remember the name of the arbitrator, but that he knew he was an experienced US attorney.

Thomas J. Brewer is the arbitrator in the case. He’s a member of the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, as well as the American Arbitration Association, according to his website.

The CNMI government is covering the costs for the CCC to participate in the court-ordered arbitration. It’s spending $350K after the regulator acknowledged recently that it didn’t have any available funds. That’s a result of IPI’s continued nonpayment of license fees and dues.

US District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted IPI a preliminary injunction to stop the CCC from revoking its exclusive casino license. She gave the order to permit the casino operator to exercise its right to arbitration, which it said was part of its licensing agreement.

CCC board chair Edward C. Deleon Guerrero stated last September that he believes the arbitration process was a waste of time and money. He added that the arbitrator’s decision won’t be legally binding. However, he acknowledged that both sides must accept it and follow Manglona’s instructions.

Theft at the Palace

Security guards are about all that remains on the IPI payroll in Saipan. One of them recently earned his paycheck when he stopped a theft in action at Imperial Palace, according to Marianas Variety.

This past Monday, at around 1:15 in the afternoon, a guard stumbled across two thieves at the casino. They were in the process of trying to steal copper wire and construction equipment, and almost got away with it.

When the unnamed guard surprised the thieves, they had already collected around 140 feet of copper wire from electrical panels. They also managed to take copper tubes from water heaters. The electricity at the casino has been shut off for nonpayment for a year and a half. Therefore, there was little risk of electrocution for removing the wire.

The thieves made a clean getaway, but left their bounty behind. The guard found the copper wire in a backpack and some of the tools in another area of the complex.

There was a police report about the incident, but there haven’t been any arrests. The guard managed to take a picture of one of the would-be criminals. However, the media outlet didn’t specify whether it was good enough to make a positive identification. In a place like Saipan, with around 43,385 inhabitants, it probably won’t be difficult to track them down.