Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC has promised to “vigorously defend” its exclusive Saipan casino license in the wake of reports suggesting a failure by the company to pay its annual license fee could open the door for new competition.
As reported by Inside Asian Gaming, IPI last week wrote to the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) of the CNMI requesting abatement of its US$15.5 million annual license fee, citing inability to pay due to the impact of COVID-19.
That request, which was quickly rejected by the CCC, led to a suggestion by IPI general counsel Michael W Dotts that the company’s financial woes could see it forego its local monopoly on casino gaming.
But IPI has moved quickly to distance itself from the comments of its general counsel, stating that the company should in fact hold exclusive rights to operate all gaming on the island.
“IPI will vigorously defend our exclusive rights to all gaming,” it said via a company statement sent to IAG.
“IPI believes that all gaming activity, such as video poker machines and e-gaming, should be under the exclusive gaming license of IPI and be subject to the oversight of the Commonwealth Casino Commission.
“The implementation of the casino agreement is in its sixth year. We sincerely appeal to the government to consolidate all gaming activity under one regulatory framework as promised.”
IPI last week requested abatement of its annual license fee via a letter from recently appointed CEO Donald Browne, who pointed to a lack of income since March due to the closure of its casino at Imperial Palace‧Saipan.
“It does not appear that international flights will resume until January 2021. It does not seem likely that tourism to the CNMI will begin again until May 2021. In all likelihood IPI will remain closed, and have no income, for the next eight months,” Browne said.
The letter also called for postponement of IPI’s annual US$3 million payment to support operation of the CCC itself until 30 days before Imperial Palace‧Saipan opens, suggesting “there will be no casino operations to monitor until IPI does reopen.”