Imperial Pacific Int’l Saipan Casino Facing Further Cannibalization

Posted on: August 21, 2023, 07:34h. 

Last updated on: August 21, 2023, 11:44h.

Even though Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has paid down some of its massive debt in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), there’s still more outstanding. Because it hasn’t settled a lawsuit it lost against a former manager, it’s now in danger of losing the massive crystal dragons that have adorned the lobby of its Imperial Palace integrated resort (IR) in Saipan.

One of the crystal dragons hanging in the lobby of the Imperial Palace casino in Saipan
One of the crystal dragons hanging in the lobby of the Imperial Palace casino in Saipan. They face forfeiture over the casino’s inability to settle lawsuits. (Image: Flickr)

Joshua Gray is a former IPI executive who won $5.6 million in a discrimination lawsuit against the company several months ago. IPI never spoke up after the verdict was delivered, either to accept the results or contest them.

That eventually led Gray to submit a writ of execution against his former employer in an effort to recover the damages the court had ordered. Media outlet Marianas Variety reports that CNMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has now responded to the request, leading Imperial Palace to be possibly stripped of the dragons and other assets.

Casino Cannibalization Continues

At the end of June, Judge Manglona gave the green light for the U.S. Marshals Service to seize Imperial Palace assets, including vehicles, heavy machinery, and more. The decision was the result of IPI’s lack of ability to settle a lawsuit brought against it by the primary contractor for the IR, USA Fanter.

The judge has gone back to the same playbook this time, authorizing the Marshals to seize more vehicles, liquor, furniture, hardware, and the crystal dragons. IPI has the legal right to challenge the forfeiture, although it would have difficulty doing so if it can’t show how it can pay the settlement, or that it’s appealing the ruling.

It’s unclear how much money the sale of the assets could bring in to cover the lawsuit. Aaron Halegua, Gray’s lawyer and an attorney who has led several cases against IPI, acknowledged that the forfeiture will be stopped once the claim is settled. However, as long as there’s still a balance due to Gray, the cannibalization can continue.

It seems as though anything and everything is fair game for seizure. The only items that might not be available would be any for which IPI specifically requests an exemption. That request would have to be approved by the courts.

Kan Can’t Get Paid

When IPI was looking to take over Saipan, it made a deal with Kan Pacific Saipan. The company would shut down its operations, including the Marianas Resort and Spa, in return for $5 million.

IPI would pay the company $200K per year for 25 years, and everything started fine. However, in keeping with its standard operating procedures, IPI has missed payments.

Not even the shutdown of Imperial Palace’s operations was enough to prevent the regular payments from moving forward. However, Kan hasn’t been able to get its money, as IPI missed payments in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

It has also now missed making its 2023 payment. There was already a default judgment against the company for the first three missed payments, to which the latest will likely be added. In total, at least $600K is still outstanding.

This is in addition to the tens of millions of dollars IPI owes to CNMI and the Commonwealth Casino Commission. It’s also apart from millions more it owes in outstanding debt and legal payments from other suits. IPI has boasted of being able to reopen Imperial Palace at some point. But with no money and possibly no assets, that seems like nothing more than a pipe dream.

For now, however, the company still holds exclusivity to offer casino gaming. That is now something the CNMI and the courts are addressing, with a decision likely before the end of the year.