41 Ji Xiaobo
SAIPAN PROJECT DIRECTOR
Imperial Pacific International
POWER SCORE: 611
POSITION LAST YEAR: 29
CLAIMS TO FAME
Former junket executive dubbed “mastermind” of casino development in US Pacific territory Saipan
Rehired former Chairman and CEO Mark Brown to complete the stalled beachfront Imperial Pacific casino hotel
It’s been a year of lower performance and lowered expectations for Imperial Pacific International and the so-called “mastermind” of its US$7 billion casino plans in Saipan, former Hengsheng junket executive Ji Xiaobo. Gaming revenue fell to HK$2.2 billion (US$281 million) from HK$4.5 billion a year ago, while unpaid player debt ballooned to HK$13.7 billion. IPI wrote off HK$5.8 billion of the debt, after a HK$4.7 billion write-off last year, and executives exited.
That beachfront structure opened its casino in July last year, succeeding a temporary casino in a shopping mall. IPI missed its August deadline to finish the hotel’s 329 guest rooms amid reports of illegal workers, unpaid wages and injuries, including at least one fatality. The authorities extended IPI’s deadline through February 2021, a decided vote of no confidence. The chairman of the casino commission further suggested a 2,000 room IR, the bedrock of IPI’s winning license bid, won’t be necessary. That’s a damning lack of faith or a welcome lifeline – or both.
In November, IPI brought back its former Saipan Chairman and CEO Mark Brown, who opened Venetian Macao after working his way up from dealer to president and CEO of Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts. In his first Saipan stint, Brown won approval for the temporary casino, secured sites for the hotel and IR and started construction. Most important, he gave IPI credibility, something it needs desperately at this juncture.
For the full list of 2018 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.