Imperial Pacific cuts casino staff hours in coronavirus response


imperial-pacific-cutting-casino-staff-hours-coronavirusSaipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI) is the latest Asian gaming operator to reduce its employees’ work schedules in response to the coronavirus crisis.

On Tuesday, the Marianas Variety published a statement it received from IPI detailing the company’s plans to cut the work hours of staff at its Imperial Palace Resort by 30% due to the “impact on travel demands throughout all of Asia” from the coronavirus outbreak. But IPI stressed that it remains “fully committed to the [Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands] as always.”

IPI then detailed its nearly six-year history on Saipan, during which “our company has struggled, our employees have struggled, and our ability to create a steady stream of income has suffered.” IPI says it “has invested around $1 billion in the CNMI and paid over $300 million in taxes and fees to the government,” while IPI itself “lost over $500 million accumulatively.”

IPI then attempted to explain its decision to ignore its business gross revenue tax (BGRT) obligations, saying “IPI’s understanding is that it overpaid taxes by over $40m which will result [in] a refund.” IPI reached a deal last week to pay roughly 60% of the $30m the government claimed it was owed.

As for the roughly $37m in outstanding community benefit fund contributions IPI was required to make under the terms of its gaming license, IPI said it had contributed around $10m to this fund since 2018. But IPI claimed that it did so “with the expectation that it will be granted the public land needed to start the next phase of our project plan.”

CNMI Sen. Paul Manglona, who has been the most vocal politician trying to figure out the status and/or whereabouts of IPI’s fund contributions, told the Variety that there was nothing in IPI’s casino license agreement that stipulated the community fund contributions were contingent on IPI being granted a public land lease.

Manglona also took issue with IPI’s claim to have contributed $10m to the benefit fund. “Either the administration or IPI is lying because the administration earlier said that IPI has contributed $3m in 2018, so where is the rest of the $10m?”

Both IPI and CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres are currently under investigation for possible wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy charges related to suspected illegal campaign contributions. Last November, FBI agents raided the offices of Torres, some of his family members and associates, as well as IPI and one of its lobbyists. Torres has denied any wrongdoing.