Imperial Pacific Must Pay CCC Bills At All Costs

Back in June, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) gaming regulators issued Imperial Pacific International (IPI) a list of ultimatums and a fixed timeline within which they had to be fulfilled.

Apparently, the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) was getting tired of the ongoing efforts of the casino operator to skirt laws and not fulfil their financial obligations. One of the requirements was for IPI to make good on its outstanding license fee which the company tried to avoid having to pay in typical IPI fashion. It has already said it hasn’t got the funds to pay the bill, but the CCC is determined to get paid at any cost.

When the CCC presented its list of IPI items needed to be met in June, it gave the casino operator a few weeks to get their house in order, threatening to revoke their license if they failed to comply.

The deadline came and went, with the commission drawing in the sand a new line to give more time to the IPI. It gave the company until August 12 to come up with the $15.5 million it is expected to pay for its license, but that, too, came and went, and the CCC still hasn’t taken the requisite measures to put the continuing fiasco to a close.

On August 11, IPI told the CCC that it would not be able to come up with the money to which the committee gave its response on Thursday. President Edward DeLeon Guerrero claimed: “IPI needs to fulfill its obligations, not only to the people of the CNMI, but also to their employees, vendors and other parties who are contracted to work with their organization. We are deeply disappointed in IPI’s decision to request an abatement of their annual license fee and casino regulatory fee.

“The CCC is continuing its enforcement and investigations of its recent Orders that encompass the entire range of any payables or contributions owed to public entities and is prepared to seek all remedies under the CNMI gaming laws and under the Casino License Agreement as they relate to IPI’s non-payment and other non-compliance matters.”

Guerrero reiterated the determination of the commission to take more drastic steps to get IPI to act like a responsible company, warning that it may decide to suspend the license of IPI, impose financial penalties or even withdraw the licence. At this point, only one of those options does make any sense. Suspending the license means that IPI can not produce the money that it urgently needs to offset the hundreds of millions of dollars that it is supposed to pay due to continuing litigation and the unpaid license fee. Trying to penalize the firm financially is a futility exercise because it has already confirmed that it does not have the money to pay the license. That leaves only a revocation of a license which will be in everyone’s best interest at this stage.

For all the conditions that the CCC imposed on IPI, only one was able to satisfy. Late last month it revealed it had appointed a new CEO, Donald Browne, to take the place of former CEO Mark Brown. How long Browne wants to stick around, remains to be seen, despite the tendency of the IPI to change chiefs the way some people change their underwear. Brown had attempted to manage the company twice, and obviously did not know his lesson the first time around, giving up last December once more. Before taking on his new position, Browne had previously been the senior vP of the IPI.

There’s not much hope that IPI will recover and gain sufficient ground to make good on its outstanding debts and pending legal action. When it can’t collect the money to finance the license, it won’t be able to come up with the funds to establish a three-month payroll supply, another provision of the CCC. At this late point, and despite all the trouble IPI has caused, the “worst-case scenario” of license revocation by the commission is the best-case scenario for preventing IPI from causing the CNMI more embarrassment.