Saipan lawmakers are considering lifting a moratorium on new poker machine licenses in order to claw back some of the dwindling tax and licensing revenues contributed by local IR operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI).
According to House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, the number of poker machines on the island has fallen from more than 900 to just 500 since the 2014 enactment of Public Law 18-56, which declares, “no new or additional licenses for poker, pachinko, or similar amusement machines, but not including electronic gaming machines, shall be granted or allowed to operate outside of the approved casino establishment.”
However, the prospect of enabling new poker arcades to open by lifting the moratorium was raised during a meeting this week, with Sablan stating, “The idea is to allow those businesses to expand, which could generate additional revenue for the government,” Marianas Variety reports.
t was only two weeks ago that the CNMI government and IPI agreed a deal that will see IPI pay just US$18.2 million to fully settle outstanding Business Gross Revenue Tax (BGRT), which the government had originally said was in excess of US$30 million. It had previously been revealed that IPI’s BGRT contribution had plummeted from US$43.6 million in 2018 to just US$41,000 last year.
IPI is yet to report its 2019 financial results, but in 2018 saw revenue at Imperial Palace‧Saipan decline 58.2% to HK$3.26 billion (US$415.3 million) while falling from a profit of HK$637 million in 2017 to a loss of HK$2.97 billion (US$378.4 million). The company was also two weeks late in paying its US$15 million annual license fee in August.
IPI announced last week that it had been force to cut staff work hours by 30% due to reduced travel demands across Asia from the Coronavirus.