CASINO

Imperial Pacific VIP turnover falls as worker protests continue

TAGs: imperial pacific, saipan

imperial-pacific-labor-protestSaipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International Holdings (IPI) saw its VIP turnover take a hit in April while angry workers tasked with building IPI’s permanent gaming venue took their protests to the Chinese government.

On Tuesday, IPI announced that unaudited VIP turnover at its temporary Saipan casino Best Sunshine Live hit $2.15b in April, down from $2.96b in March 2017 and from $3.2b in April 2016. So far this year, IPI’s monthly turnover has ranged as low as $1.67b in February and as high as $5.6b in January.

Meanwhile, a group of Chinese construction workers continue to protest against the dodgy contractors IPI enlisted to build its permanent Saipan gaming venue, the Imperial Pacific Resort. On Friday, nearly 100 workers formerly employed by Gold Mantis Construction staged a protest march to the site of the unfinished Imperial Pacific Resort to complain about unpaid wages and unsafe working conditions.

The workers were among the nearly 200 Chinese nationals who were detained by Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) labor officials a month ago based on the workers’ lack of proper work visas. The 91 workers claim Gold Mantis failed to pay their final month’s wages and also failed to provide their food and lodging.

On Monday (International Workers Day), the irate laborers sent a letter to the Chinese consulate urging their government to ‘persuade’ Gold Mantis to honor its labor agreements.

IPI has publicly deplored the behavior of some of its former contractors while insisting it was cooperating with local officials to ensure the resolution of the workers’ complaints and the “safe and imminent repatriation of affected individuals.” Last week, IPI’s request for an extension in completing its permanent gaming venue was granted by the CNMI government, based in part on the company’s inability to find sufficient numbers of workers.

TAX TALK
When IPI first began casino operations on Saipan, it struck a sweetheart deal under which its temporary casino paid no tax on its gaming revenue, only a $15m annual license fee. Legislators are now considering Rep. Janet Maratita’s HB 20-31, which would impose a 5% tax on gaming revenue generated by IPI’s permanent venue.

Last week, the Marianas Variety reported that Maratita was seeking a written analysis of two conflicting legal opinions regarding HB 20-31 after a member of the Ways and Means Committee suggested the measure could be unconstitutional if it applied solely to IPI’s operations.

The bill’s language may require amending before it can be approved, but CNMI acting governor Victor Hocog was quoted by local media saying the operator would almost certainly face new taxes, although likely not until the permanent resort is fully operational. Hocog said that legislators “should give [IPI] ample time before imposing a bigger tax.”

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