Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING AUGUST 2018 26 “The difficulties that Imperial Pacific has had in completing the first project in Garapan raise serious questions about the company and their ability not only to complete the first casino but also the major IR project.” – Fred Gushin FEATURE IN FOCUS two bars, according to IPI. When completed, the casino will have capacity for 193 tables and 365 slots. Last July, the Commonwealth Casino Commission granted IPI a one year extension. The revised casino license agreement requires IPI to deliver by 31 August this year, at a minimum, a 329 room four or five star hotel, 14,140 square meters (152,146 square feet) of gaming area, 3,870 square meters of food and beverage outlets, retail, meeting and spa/fitness areas, plus 15 villas. The revision also extends the deadline for development of IPI’s integrated resort that makes up the bulk of its promised US$7.1 billion investment to 2023 for Phase One and 2028 for Phase Two. Required IR components include 800 and 875 room luxury hotels, a US$100 million theme park, a theater, substantial retail and meeting elements, plus 185 villas. Since March, IPI has been saying it won’t finish the hotel by August but has been slow to formally request another extension to the casino license agreement. At the Casino Commission’s June meeting, IPI Vice President for Construction Eric Poon said IPI hopes to have the hotel completed “by the end of the year,” though sources tell Inside Asian Gaming completion could take 18 months. Commission officials have repeatedly asked IPI to apply for an extension and avoid any need to “sanction” the company. Commission Chairman Juan Sablan urged IPI to request a realistic completion date. The Casino Commission and the office of CNMI Governor Ralph Torres did not respond to questions for this article. Too big to fail? TAXES COLLECTED FROM Imperial Pacific International’s Saipan casino last year equaled half of the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands’ fiscal 2018 budget, and the US Pacific territory’s Governor Ralph Torres, on the ballot this November, pleaded guilty to violating CNMI’s Open Government Act to facilitate passage of the Saipan casino legalization bill. “It is safe to assume that IPI’s financial success in its business operations is in the best interest of the CNMI and its people. In this regard, it is reasonable to expect that all CNMI residents have Economically, politically important casinos challenge regulators a financial stake in IPI’s success,” CNMI Commonwealth Casino Commission Executive Director Edward DeLeon Guerrero said, according to local media. CNMI is hardly the only jurisdiction with a big bet riding on the local casino business, a conundrum for regulators. “It is understandable that the gaming regulators want [IPI] to succeed,” Spectrum Gaming Group Managing Director Frederic Gushin, a New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Assistant Attorney General during Atlantic City’s heyday, says. “The question is, are they really regulating this casino or becoming advocates on behalf of the casino? If they are advocates of the casino, they are not really doing their job.” BALANCING ACT “Regulation is always a matter of balancing the public interest in the integrity of gaming operations, and those involved in key management or ownership roles in a licensee, with the legitimate commercial objectives of the casino licensee,” Newpage Consulting Principal David Green, a former gaming regulator in South Australia, says. The Agenda Group Director of Regulatory Affairs Peter Cohen says regulators’ responsibilities include “ensuring commercial A luxury boat used to house some of IPI’s VIP guests.