Saipan Casino Given Final Approval To Open In July

CNMI Casino Commission gvies Imperial Pacific International green light

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 30, 2017) – The Commonwealth Casino Commission has approved the opening of Imperial Pacific International’s new casino facility in Garapan.

Imperial Pacific plans to open it before July 15.

The decision to give IPI the “green light” was announced by the commission at 4 p.m. on Thursday during a meeting in the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library’s technology room.

The commission on May 31, 2017 conditionally approved IPI’s request to transfer its live training facility currently at T Galleria to its hotel-casino under certain conditions.

According to its casino license agreement with the government, Imperial Pacific’s initial gaming facility can only be opened and operated if the 250-room requirement is completed.

Phase 1 of the project was scheduled to be finished this year, but due to workforce problems and other issues, the completion of the hotel portion of the project has been delayed.

Last month, the Lottery Commission amended the casino license agreement to extend IPI’s deadline for completing the Phase 1 project from its original schedule of Aug. 31, 2017 to Aug. 31, 2018.

Because of the Office of the Attorney General’s legal opinion questioning the authorization of IPI to go live at the new facility without the completion of the 250 rooms, the casino commission sought clarification from the Lottery Commission which also held a meeting on Thursday.

According to the Lottery Commission, amending the casino license agreement to allow the licensee to transfer the gaming operations from T Galleria to the initial gaming facility before the complete construction of the facility is in the best interests of the CNMI and the licensee.

In an interview, Lottery Commission Chairman Mark Rabauliman, who is also the Commerce secretary, said:

“There were a lot of gray areas that needed to be clarified if the live training was to move into the new facility. It was not clearly defined in terms of how they could move in, and that’s why we’re here. That has been addressed in today’s meeting. The casino commission wasn’t able to entertain the request of IPI to move and go live because of Section 10 of the casino license agreement. So we amended it and inserted some language to clearly define how the IPI can move into the new facility. So this amendment basically allows IPI to move into the new facility when the casino commission gives them the green light.”

Rep. Angel Demapan, Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero, Greg Camacho, Gary Sword and Geri Dela Cruz, executive director of IPI’s Corporate Social Responsibility team, urged the Lottery Commission at the meeting to allow the casino investor to move forward with its project.

Viola Alepuyo, IPI senior vice president for special projects, said: “We’ve been working and continuously consulting with the casino commission since day one. All concerns have been addressed, including removal of the debris for safety reason, the installation of fire alarms, and even the lights at the front of the hotel. We installed temporary lighting because the lamp posts we ordered have not arrived yet. But just to make sure that there is enough light in front we have installed temporary lights.”

But Alepuyo said the construction of the Phase 1 project has never stopped and it is ongoing despite issues pertaining to the workers.

During the meeting on Thursday, the casino commission asked IPI’s officials Henry Cheang, Eugene Sousa and Charles McDonald if they are ready to go live at the new facility.

McDonald said they are still finalizing some important details of the transfer from T Galleria to the new facility, adding that they need at least 10 days to organize everything.

Sousa said they are planning to have an opening ceremony at the new facility on or before July 15.

Saying that IPI is in compliance with the requirements, the casino commission approved the opening of the new facility.

In an interview, Commission vice chairman Joseph Reyes said the amendments to the casino licensing agreement and to the casino regulations are necessary so that all ambiguous language is cleared up and everything can move forward.

“They have been granted conditional approval already, so they can proceed with their next plan,” he said on Thursday.

“The licensee has complied with all our requests, and the agreement has been signed by the AG and all parties concerned, so it’s now time to give them the green light,” Reyes added.

In a separate interview, Casino commission executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero said: “We no longer have any reason to prevent IPI from going live at the new facility.”

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