Mariana Islands lawmaker pushing more casinos after Imperial Pacific fiasco

Posted on: June 13, 2022, 9:22 a.m.

Last update on: June 13, 2022, 09:44h.

Imperial Pacific International (IPI) convinced a judge at the end of May that it would receive a windfall of cash by the end of the month. That didn’t happen, and an effort to strike its exclusivity for the Imperial Palace casino in Saipan is back up for discussion.

Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace Casino in Saipan before construction was halted. Imperial Pacific International has reportedly still not fulfilled its duty to pay the tens of millions it owes to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. (Image: Inside the Asian Game)

As a result, Senator Paul A. Manglona wants action, according to Variety of the Marianas. He urges Senate Speaker Jude U. Hofschneider and Senate Leader Vinnie Sablan to consider removing IPI’s exclusivity.

Previously, the idea that the IPI could lose this exclusivity was considered unconstitutional. However, with the company continuing to fail to meet its obligations, there may be a loophole that lawmakers can exploit.

It’s time to act

Manglona, ​​along with Senator Edith DeLeon Guerrero, introduced Senate Bill 22-23 to remove exclusivity from IPI’s casino license last year. The Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) suspended the license due to the operator’s failure to meet its financial obligations.

Manglona has written several letters to Senate Leader Vinnie Sablan asking his attention to the legislation, which outlines steps to resolve IPI’s financial difficulties.

Obviously, IPI has not, cannot and will not honor its obligations to its employees, contractors, suppliers and CNMI under the casino license agreement.said Senator Paul A. Manglona.

SJR 22-01, which Deleon Guerrero and Manglona also featured, asks Governor Ralph Torres to become more proactive. They want him to tell the Planning and Development Advisory Council to immediately provide a report to the Legislative Assembly regarding the casino plans.

The Senate Tax Affairs Committee has already received both bills. They had until April 18 to act. But IPI, whose own parent company wants her out, continues to find ways to block any legal action against her.

The former president will appear in court

Chief Justice Ramona V. Manglona, ​​District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI), ordered former IPI President Cui Ji Lie to appear in court at 9 a.m. on June 18. She must bring financial statements showing why she cannot pay the attorney fees she owes due to a contempt of court decision.

Judge Manglona told Cui she must testify about her failure to pay more than $182,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs by June 21. IPI had previously said that Cui and others would cover some of IPI’s multimillion-dollar debt, but only made minor payments.

The judge granted the plaintiffs’ motions for attorney’s fees on May 19. This was in response to Cui’s violation of court orders regarding the preservation of electronically stored information (ESI).

Far-reaching benefits

The embarrassing scandal is causing serious harm to individuals across the NMI. Finance Secretary David Atalig presented budget information from the Department of Finance to the House of Representatives last week. The Tribune of Saipan reports that he disclosed that of the $481.8 million the NMI has received under the American Rescue Plan Act, it has already committed $348 million to various projects.

However, there is a significant shortage for one particular allowance – government pensioners’ pensions. The government pays 75% of the benefits retirees receive through their pensions. However, it adds 25% as a voluntary contribution.

Atalig claimed the amount was around $13 million. Unless the IPI is successful and delivers on its promise to provide new funding, it cannot provide the additional 25%.

Last year, in accordance with its legislation, the NMI government used the proceeds of a Community Disaster Loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover the additional percentage. However, this option is not on the table this year.