Controversial Saipan Casino Shut Down After Super Typhoon Yutu Causes ‘Millions’ in Damage

Posted on: November 15, 2018, 11:41h. 

Last updated on: November 15, 2018, 11:41h.

Embattled Saipan casino developer Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has announced it will close its Imperial Palace Casino “until further notice” from Friday after a super typhoon devastated the Pacific island three weeks ago.

Typhoon Yutu
A satellite image of Super Typhoon Yutu. Somewhere under that is Saipan and the Imperial Palace Casino, which may now be even more unfinished than it was when it missed its August 31 construction deadline. (Image: Vox)

Super Typhoon Yutu struck Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands on the morning of October 25, killing two people and destroying more than 3,000 homes. With windspeeds of up to 180 mph, it was the most powerful tropical cyclone of 2018.

Much of Saipan and Tinian remain without power and residents face water shortages — a dangerous situation considering the humidity of the climate. But despite the Mariana Islands’ status as a US overseas territory, the devastation was largely ignored by the world’s media.

Yutu caused severe damage to Saipan’s airport, and commercial flights have been grounded since. The casino relies almost completely on the remote island’s tourist industry for revenues, which has been crippled.

‘Like a War Zone’

“Super Typhoon Yutu left a trail of destruction on Saipan and Tinian,” said IPI in statement Thursday. “The natural disaster has been heart-wrenching because the storm left our beautiful islands looking like a war zone. The island-wide destruction affected personal property, our infrastructure, and the business community. Like so many others, Imperial Pacific International, LLC was included in this trail of destruction.

Imperial Pacific also suffered millions of dollars in unexpected damage, forcing the company to make adjustments to ensure typhoon cleanup and repairs are done safely so employees and development continues to be protected.”

The company said it has been running limited operations at the still-unfinished Imperial Palace since the storm hit. It has since undertaken assessment and “made the difficult decision” to temporarily shut down casino operations.

Bankruptcy Rumors Quashed

The news of the closure comes just after IPI issued a press statement denying social media rumors that it had entered bankruptcy proceedings, which it denounced as “slanderous, fake news.” The company added it had launched legal proceedings against the unnamed source of the rumors.

In August, IPI announced profits had fallen 91.3 percent in the first six months of 2018, mostly because it had been forced to write off $733 million of unrecoverable bad debt, most of which was owed by just ten high rollers.

It missed its August 31 deadline to complete the Imperial Palace, which itself was an extension from the previous 2017 deadline. After being granted a fresh extension by the island’s authorities — to February 2021 — it promptly laid off 80 construction workers, leading at least one Saipan politician to suggest the company could be facing “serious problems.”