Imperial Pacific International, Although Broke, Not Giving Up on Saipan Casino

Posted on: March 21, 2023, 11:56h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2023, 06:40h.

The majority shareholder of Imperial Pacific International (IPI) still believes the company deserves to hold on to its casino monopoly in Saipan. Cui Lijie, who was once described by her own attorney as “incompetent” as the head of the company, is confident IPI can find the money it needs to continue with the shuttered Imperial Palace project.

A view of the Imperial Palace casino resort in Saipan
A view of the Imperial Palace casino resort in Saipan. Operator Imperial Pacific International continues to assert that it’s capable of running the casino, despite not having any money. (Image: Imperial Pacific International)

Cui participated in an interview with local media outlet Marianas Variety on Monday, where she tried to put on a serious face about IPI’s future. Despite bankrupting the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) and owing over $100 million, IPI is holding out for an investor to save it.

The embattled Cui, who once served as IPI’s chair, shrugged off the company’s incompetence in conducting its affairs. The casino operator has faced – and still faces – numerous lawsuits and mounting debt. But according to her, it’s not IPI’s fault.

The CCC recently reported that IPI owes it more than $50 million for not paying licensing fees for several years.

IPI has also recently faced accusations of money laundering, human trafficking, slave labor, and fiduciary irresponsibility.

COVID-19 Fall Out

COVID-19 caused the casino to shut down, which has made it impossible to generate income. While that is a legitimate argument favoring IPI’s current situation, its issues began before the pandemic.

Several CEOs who walked through the doors in recent years didn’t have the expertise or background to lead the company. One was a former security and surveillance manager the company appointed after losing a CEO.

Cui said in the interview that the company’s problems result from “bad decisions” IPI’s former managers and executives made. This led to a poor public image, which chased investors away. When COVID-19 hit, the problems only got worse.

IPI reported a year ago, well after COVID-19 began to subside, that it was securing new investments. Several times, a deal was “close to conclusion” but never materialized. Now, according to Cui, the investor is gone.

That’s been the go-to theme at the company for the past couple of years. It repeatedly “comes close” to receiving a windfall of money, but something spoils the plans. Of course, it’s never because IPI is at fault.

Road to Nowhere

Cui now wants to convince Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) leaders to regroup at the table with the company. Her goal is to conduct a full-blown reset and start from scratch. Hopefully, the CNMI would clear the company clear of all of its outstanding government debt and lawsuits before that happens.

IPI and the CCC are locked in a battle that includes court-ordered arbitration. They’re not scheduled to meet to determine what happens next until the end of May.

That provides a lot of latitude with no clear direction for the company or the commission. In the meantime, IPI will continue dangling carrots, hoping to keep its exclusivity intact.