Posted on: August 30, 2022, 12:31h. 

Last updated on: August 30, 2022, 02:07h.

Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has once again managed to cling to its exclusive casino license in Saipan. A judge has intervened and approved an injunction by the company to stop the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) from taking further action.

Imperial Palace
Imperial Pacific International’s Imperial Palace casino resort under construction in Saipan. The casino operator has once again avoided losing its casino license. (Image: Pinterest)

The CCC and IPI have been locked in a battle that follows IPI’s years of neglect and failure to adhere to regulatory requirements. Despite owing about $100 million to the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), it always finds a way to survive.

The gaming regulator wants to revoke the casino license because of the financial debt. It also seeks action because IPI hasn’t come forward with the investment it claimed to have secured months ago. In its latest attempt to stall, it argued that it has a right to seek arbitration. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona agreed.

No Relief in Sight

IPI missed a deadline to produce the investment it apparently attracted from a Hong Kong investment group. It said it was going to receive $150 million. But allegedly it only received a small percentage of the funds.

That was in June. With no further indication that IPI was making progress since then, the CCC was ready to determine the operator’s fate in regard to the Imperial Palace integrated resort in Saipan. The property has been closed for over a year and doesn’t show any signs of being able to come back to life.

Judge Manglona has now ordered IPI and CCC into arbitration. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) will conduct the proceedings at the request of IPI, according to the Saipan Tribune. The company’s position is that of a non-binding arbitrator. This will still leave the door open for IPI to lose its license.

IPI had consistently convinced the court system to extend a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the CCC to prevent it from taking action. Three requests and three approvals since May prolonged the Saipan saga. With all of IPI’s failures to produce financing, the injunction is its anchor to keep the CCC at bay for now.

The CCC and IPI are now working with the AAA to establish a schedule for the arbitration hearings.

FBI Pays CNMI Legislator a Visit

Six years ago, at the start of IPI’s debacle in the CNMI, the FBI descended on Saipan. It walked away with boxes full of records and digital equipment after responding to accusations that the company violated finance and labor laws.

Three years ago, the FBI was back, showing an interest in CNMI Governor Ralph Torres. While nothing further came of that visit, the FBI returned again, this time talking to another government official.

The Saipan Tribune reported that Department of Public Lands Secretary Sixto K. Igisomar received a visit from the FBI on August 16. They served him with a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury. Igisomar wouldn’t explain the nature of the case.

The legislator was previously the Secretary of the Department of Commerce. In that position, he also served as the chairman of the Commonwealth Lottery Casino. That entity was responsible for granting IPI its exclusive casino licenses in 2014.

Representative Ralph N. Yumul also received an FBI visit. He didn’t receive a subpoena, but confirmed that the agents inquired about his involvement in the development of casino gaming laws. Yumul said he hadn’t supported them, but he does support another initiative. He recently introduced legislation to allow up to five casinos in Saipan.