Saipan’s Commonwealth Casino Commission has shut down its office following an order from the governor due to lack of funding.
According to a report by Marianas Variety, the regulator was advised by newly-elected governor Arnold Palacios – who was inaugurated last week – that the CCC must suspend operations due to the CNMI’s dire financial status.
The state of affairs was also described by Palacios as an “unprecedented financial crisis”.
The CCC had previously been funded by the annual US$3.15 million regulatory fee that was supposed to be paid by casino operator Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, however IPI has failed to make any payments since 2019. Its casino license was suspended in April 2021 and is on the verge of being revoked.
CCC Executive Director Andrew Yeom told the Marianas Variety that the regulator’s eight remaining staff members, who were on annual salaries of US$65,000, received their final paycheck on 13 January.
The dismantling of the CCC leaves planned mediation talks between the regulator and IPI in limbo as the troubled casino operator fights to save its casino license. Former governor Ralph Torres last year set aside US$350,000 to cover the cost of the court-mandated arbitration.