Posted on: July 26, 2022, 07:43h. 

Last updated on: July 26, 2022, 01:00h.

Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has been trying to figure out how to hold onto its exclusivity to operate the only casino in Saipan. It may not be able to, as an effort to revoke that license might be moving forward.

Imperial Palace casino resort Saipan
The Imperial Palace casino resort in Saipan at night. The casino’s operator, Imperial Pacific International, once again faces the threat of losing its license. (Image: PNC News First)

A week ago, IPI and the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) said the two sides were close to finalizing a settlement. However, they had already missed the deadline to present a resolution.

IPI asserts it is going to receive financial backing. However, it still cannot produce any proof that funds are actively en route. As a result, the CCC is ready to proceed with the removal of the casino operator’s license to control the Imperial Palace casino.

For years, IPI has shown that it is talented when it comes to convincing CNMI not to take further action. However, it might finally be running out of rope.

Through CNMI assistant attorneys general Keisha Blaise and Alison Nelson, the CCC is advancing its attempt to revoke the operator’s license, according to the Saipan Tribune. Last Friday, the regulator filed a motion to overturn an injunction that allowed IPI to retain its license.

IPI Continues to Shirk Responsibilities

In its request for an injunction, IPI claimed it wasn’t responsible for its failings. It stated that COVID-19 and a typhoon in 2018 kept it from being able to fulfill its obligations.

The operator owes tens of millions of dollars to the CNMI, as well as to private contractors. However, the attorney general refuted the company’s claims. Instead, they say that IPI violated a number of laws, irrespective of any force majeure that may have arrived.

The injunction plaintiffs seek would cause significant harm to defendant as the resulting delay would hinder its funding, thereby crippling its ability to regulate and grow the casino industry in the Commonwealth and would harm the Commonwealth for the same reasons. For all these reasons and those explained below, the CCC respectfully requests that the preliminary injunction be denied,” reads a request to cancel IPI’s injunction to retain its casino license.

IPI also claimed that its license agreement carries a clause that requires arbitration over license disputes. However, that clause doesn’t cover cases where the operator breaks the law. In addition, the attorneys general argue that IPI removed any potential opportunity for arbitration when it answered the initial complaint and asked for a hearing.

One More Try

The CCC and IPI have been fighting for several years, but announced that they are close to reaching a settlement. However, they missed a due date of July 18 to present the settlement. A court judge set that date as the final opportunity for IPI to show it was ready to fulfill its financial obligations.

IPI has repeatedly found ways to avoid losing its license or assets in Imperial Palace. Even though it missed the deadline to present its settlement, it might find another way to get around this latest call for removal.

The operator claims to have made a deal with IH Group out of South Korea to provide financial backing. It will allegedly receive around $150 million, although there is no evidence of a definitive deal.

The first tranche of the investment, according to IPI, was to arrive in June. Now, just days away from August, no money is on the way.

However, IPI may argue against the latest attempt to revoke its license by using comments from IH Group. The company, which agreed to provide financing in May, stated this past weekend that the investment plan “is going well.”

IH Group Chairman Kyunam Kim said that a contract for the funding exists. He added that there are still issues that the two sides have to clarify. However, by showing the court that it is in the process of finalizing the deal, IPI may have found another way to hold onto its exclusivity.