Imperial Pacific blames COVID-19 for failures, seeks casino license
Posted: Jun 16, 2021, 11:08 a.m.
Last update on: June 16, 2021, 11:39 a.m.
Imperial Pacific International (IPI) is asking the Saipan Superior Court for help in restoring its casino privileges. The company’s gaming license for its Imperial Palace Casino on the American Pacific Island was suspended indefinitely in April.
In the Saipan Superior Court, the IPI filed an administrative application for judicial review regarding its obligation to stop gambling operations at its $ 3.9 billion integrated complex.
The Imperial Palace Casino suspended its gambling activities in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The casino was not allowed to reopen due to the revocation of the Imperial Palace casino license by the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) earlier this year.
In its cancellation of the casino license in April, the CCC said Imperial Pacific had failed to pay its license fee of $ 15.5 million for 2021 and annual regulatory fee of $ 3.1 million. The gaming regulator further revealed that the IPI failed to meet its required $ 20 million contribution to the Island’s Community Benefit Fund in 2018 and 2019.
“We are suspending the license indefinitely until the IPI complies,” said CCC President Edward DeLeon Guerrero.
In court records, Imperial Pacific says COVID-19 is responsible for its financial shortcomings and the global pandemic should be called a natural disaster.
Under the force majeure clause under the casino license agreement, the licensee is not required to pay the annual license fee in the event of a natural disaster, ”IPI lawyers argued. . “However, the Commonwealth Casino Commission has raised disputes and argued that the pandemic does not constitute a natural disaster or force majeure.
“As a result, the licensee has filed an appeal with the Saipan Superior Court to determine whether the pandemic constitutes a natural disaster or a force majeure event. If it is determined that the pandemic constitutes a natural disaster or force majeure, the licensee will not be required to pay the annual license fee, ”argues the judicial review appeal.
Imperial Pacific International is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. But its trading was suspended in March after the shares became essentially worthless. Each IPI share was trading at the time at HK $ 0.01 (US $ 0.0013).
IPI reported a loss of HK $ 2.85 billion (US $ 370 million) for 2020. Revenue totaled only $ 3.4 million. But that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the management of the company.
“Despite the current impact of COVID-19, we believe that tours to Saipan Island still have great long-term potential, benefiting from the island’s favorable weather, stunning attractions, location and flexible visa policies, with more hotels to build and open, ”an IPI statement said in April.
But earlier this month, Cui Lijie, executive director and chair of the IPI board, stepped down. First shareholder of IPI, Cui became a billionaire by founding a VIP company in Macau in 2009.
Cui remains IPI’s largest shareholder. It controls an almost 61% stake in IPI through its investment company Inventive Star Ltd. She has been accused in lawsuits by workers of having a “pattern of obstructionist and disobedient behavior”.
Last month, a U.S. District Court judge in the Northern Mariana Islands ruled that the IPI should pay seven former workers $ 5.43 million for injuries sustained during the construction of the complex.