Imperial Pacific Int’l Wants to Take Its Casino Fight to the US Supreme Court
Posted on: December 6, 2023, 07:00h.
Last updated on: December 6, 2023, 11:16h.
The future of Imperial Pacific International (IPI) in Saipan remains unclear, as it still owes millions of dollars for its Imperial Palace casino license. As the threat of losing its casino exclusivity looms — and despite the casino being shuttered for three years — IPI wants to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This past June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that there was no legal reason that the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) couldn’t force IPI out. It was the latest stage in a long-running battle over the license that should have given the U.S .territory the legal standing it needed to take action.
IPI hasn’t paid its annual license fee in years, nor has it shown the ability to come up with the money. It has repeatedly argued that COVID-19 is the reason for its financial troubles, not its multitude of regulatory and legal violations, nor its continuous stream of lawsuits.
To the Top
Marianas Variety reports that IPI wants the Supreme Court to hear the case and reverse the Court of Appeals’ ruling. The company filed its request a month ago, and the CNMI has until December 18 to provide its response.
This doesn’t mean that the Supreme Court will agree to consider the case. Every year, it receives about 10K certiorari requests (requests to overturn a lower court’s decision.) According to FindLaw.com, it only agrees to consider about 80.
Given IPI’s history, including FBI investigations, ties to Chinese organized crime, federal employment law violations, and the more than $62 million it owes the CNMI, getting the Supreme Court to hear the case seems like a long shot. At the very least, it’s just another attempt by the company to avoid what should be the inevitable revocation of its license.
The Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) has been trying to offer a payment plan to IPI over its outstanding debt, but isn’t making progress on that front, either. The company has refused to recognize the total due and has requested significant financial reductions.
That’s not likely to happen. CCC Chairman Edward C. Deleon Guerrero said last week that IPI must pay the full amount. He added that the CNMI may consider backing off its revocation of the license if the company pays $18.2 million for its 2023 fees and agrees to pay the rest.
If IPI doesn’t agree, the gaming regulator will move forward with the revocation. Deleon Guerrero asserted that, should this be the case, the CCC won’t wait to find out what the Supreme Court rules.
CCC Under Pressure
The CCC, operating on an extremely thin budget since IPI stopped paying its bills years ago, is under increasing pressure to take action. Several members of the CNMI government, including Representative Marissa Flores, are unimpressed with the regulator’s response over the past couple of years, and are demanding results.
During a CCC meeting last week, Flores said the regulator needs to revoke IPI’s license immediately, “not next month, not next week.” She called Imperial Palace a “failure” and a huge black eye for CNMI tourism. She also suggested that the entire CCC board step down over the mismanagement of the situation.
Deleon Guerrero responded by pointing out that the fight with IPI has been mired in litigious and legal muck. He placed part of the blame on the CNMI itself over the laws that allow IPI to stay in place, and part of it on the continuous court claims the company has submitted as it tries to maintain its position.
However, he emphasized that the debacle may be coming to a close. Deleon Guerrero says he’s confident the Supreme Court will either refuse to hear the case, or if it does, will rule in favor of the CNMI. This might finally be the word the CCC needs to take action.
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