Imperial Pacific seeks to delay permanent casino launch


imperial-pacific-saipan-casino-delayCasino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI) is seeking more time to finish its permanent Saipan casino as well as an extension on how long it can operate its temporary gaming venue in a local shopping mall.

Last week, IPI chairman Mark Brown sent a letter to Saipan’s governor seeking to amend the company’s casino license agreement with the government, which requires IPI to finish work on and open its Imperial Pacific Resort Hotel Saipan by August 11, 2017. IPI’s temporary casino Best Sunshine Live operates out of the T-Galleria high-end shopping mall.

IPI claims that 2015’s Typhoon Soudelor caused extensive delays at its permanent casino site, as did shortages of cement and “readily available skilled laborers.” IPI now seeks to extend the August deadline for opening the new venue to February 11, 2018.

IPI is also seeking to extend the deadline for commencing operations on the project’s Phase One – which includes the casino’s adjoining hotel – from February 11, 2018 to May 1, 2023, and pushing back Phase Two’s deadline from August 11, 2022 to May 1, 2030.

Of more immediate concern is IPI’s lease on its mall casino, which expires on April 30. IPI is seeking an extension to October 31. This marks a complete turnaround from just two weeks ago, when IPI’s senior VP of operations Donnie Browne rejected suggestions by Commonwealth Casino Commission officials that IPI might want to extend its lease just in case the new venue wasn’t ready to meet its announced March 31 soft opening.

Gov. Ralph Torres gave an interview last week in which he said there was “time for us to amend” IPI’s contract to address “the issues that were raised” in Brown’s letter. Saipan’s Attorney General Edward Manibusan reportedly issued an opinion last week that raised concerns about IPI’s deal with the government but Torres insisted that IPI wasn’t in violation of the terms of its agreement.

Meanwhile, IPI has partially resolved the financial woes that caused ratings agencies to downgrade the company’s credit rating in January. IPI reported difficulties in finding the outside investment necessary to fund the completion of its permanent casino project, which led Brown to resign as IPI’s CEO and assume the chairman’s role to focus on promoting IPI’s casino prospects to international investors.

Forbes’ Muhammad Cohen reported on Friday that IPI’s controlling shareholder Cui Lijie had purchased $100m of company bonds to support the permanent casino’s development. The infusion still leaves a remaining investment shortfall of approximately $200m but it will buy IPI some time.