Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International Holdings (IPI) opened its permanent casino’s gaming floor on Thursday, while unpaid construction workers staged protests outside.
IPI officially transferred its gaming operations from the Best Sunshine Live ‘temporary training facility’ in the high-end T Galleria shopping mall to its new $550m Imperial Pacific Resort Hotel Saipan on Thursday at 5pm. The Best Sunshine venue, which launched in 2015 and quickly made global headlines with its often insanely high VIP gambling turnover stats, is now closed for good.
The transfer was done with remarkably little fanfare given the struggles IPI has faced in opening its permanent venue. IPI officials told the Saipan Tribune that a formal opening ceremony would take place at an unspecified later date.
Thursday did see IPI’s majority shareholder Margaret Cui Lijie and CEO Kwong Yiu Ling plant themselves in the Resort’s lobby to welcome guests to the project’s phase one development. Said guests included local politicians like Rep. Janet Maratita, who has introduced legislation that would impose a 5% tax on IPI’s gaming revenue (up from the 0% IPI currently pays).
At present, only the Resort’s spacious lobby and its 140k-square-foot gaming floor – which will eventually feature over 70 gaming tables and 190 electronic gaming machines – is open and ready for business, and even some of the tables are reportedly still not ready to handle gamblers.
The Resort’s 330-room hotel remains under construction with a deadline for completion of August 31, 2018, but IPI was granted permission to launch gaming operations at the unfinished venue late last month.
Thursday’s launch was somewhat spoiled by the presence of a couple dozen Chinese nationals who were hired by one of IPI’s contractors to help build the Resort. The workers claim to be owed around $6k each in unpaid wages and are refusing to leave Saipan until they collect. Last week, IPI announced it was strengthening its compliance with local and federal laws regarding unauthorized workers.