Posted on: July 21, 2022, 07:20h. 

Last updated on: July 21, 2022, 10:49h.

Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has been close to losing control of the Imperial Palace casino in Saipan for years, but always finds a way to stay in the game. It was reportedly going to have a settlement in place with the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) by July 18. However, there is still nothing ready.

Imperial Palace Saipan
One of the two crystal dragons hanging inside the Imperial Palace watches over the casino’s interior. Imperial Pacific International still doesn’t have a settlement to retain its license, despite a deadline of July 18. (Image: Lasvit)

In June, the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) and IPI told a CNMI court judge that a settlement was in the works. As a result, IPI was able to hold onto its license to operate the still-shuttered Imperial Palace a little longer.

However, despite reconfirming the settlement date with the court last week, negotiations continue, according to information the Saipan Tribune received from a “credible source.” Now, it’s possible that the CCC might have a stronger case to hold IPI accountable.

Negotiations Underway

When the CCC and IPI provided CNMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona with an update last week, they were optimistic that they were in the final stages of an agreement. As a result, Manglona agreed to give IPI an extension of its license, should the settlement arrive.

At the same time, she warned that if there were no settlement by July 18, she would order the CCC to take action. She expected it to notify the court by July 22 of its intention to oppose the injunction that allowed IPI to retain its license.

Following this, IPI would need to submit its reply to the court by July 29. Manglona would then hold a subsequent hearing on the matter on August 18.

In its latest bid to retain its exclusive control over Saipan’s now-defunct casino market, IPI announced in April that it was going to receive a whirlwind of funds. Specifically, it asserted that it convinced backers to hand over $150 million.

IPI said that the first tranche, for $10 million, would arrive by the end of June. However, per the Saipan Tribune’s account, that money may still be in the wind.

The fallout from IPI’s inability to hold up its end of the agreement over the years reaches much further than its own pocketbook. It owes tens of millions of dollars to the CNMI in license fees and other payments.

Some of this money funds the territory’s pension fund. However, as a result of the non-payment, the government will have difficulty covering the 25% contribution the fund would have otherwise received.

IPI Faces New Lawsuit

Adding to its ongoing legal problems, IPI now has to contend with another lawsuit. A group of former Turkish employees who worked in construction jobs at Imperial Palace is suing over discrimination.

The group sued earlier this year before Manglona dismissed the case. She allowed the workers to refile and they’re now returning. They seek a class-action lawsuit that could involve around 107 Turkish workers.

The group claims that IPI hired them under the US H-2B visa program, just like it did for workers from other areas, such as Taiwan. However, despite performing the exact same jobs, the Taiwanese workers received higher pay.

The Turkish workers want compensation to cover the pay difference, as well as compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees. The lawsuit doesn’t detail the exact amount they’re seeking.