Saipan’s Imperial Pacific Casino Opening This Week Despite Ongoing Construction

Posted on: July 4, 2017, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: July 4, 2017, 03:49h.

The Imperial Pacific Resort Hotel is ready for visitors, just don’t expect to make a weekend of it and stay overnight. The Saipan casino property is opening its gambling floor on Thursday, July 6, but its accompanying hotel tower isn’t quite ready to take guests.

Imperial Pacific casino opening Saipan
The Imperial Pacific casino in Saipan is ready to get the slots spinning and cards in the air. However, the hotel tower behind the gambling floor, seen here in April, remains under construction. (Image: Imperial Pacific)

Development of the resort began nearly three years ago on the US territory, which is the largest island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands in the Pacific Ocean. As work progressed over the last 36 months on the massive resort, Imperial Pacific opened a nearby $25 million temporary gambling venue called the Best Sunshine Live Casino.

All gambling operations will now transfer to the Imperial Pacific Resort, where visitors will meet over 70 tables and nearly 200 electronic gaming machines.

“We are very excited,” Imperial Pacific International CEO Kwong Yiu Ling said in a statement. “It is our first milestone and will definitely help to launch a new era of luxury in Saipan.”

Imperial Pacific Holdings is headquartered in Hong Kong. The conglomerate began as a natural foods company, but transitioned to gaming when it purchased Macau-based junket venture Hengsheng in 2013 for HK$400 million ($51 million).

Imperial’s Not So Regal Past

The announcement that the main casino will soon open for business is big news for the long-troubled Imperial Pacific. The project dates back to August of 2014, when the parent holdings company received an exclusive 25-year license to operate a casino on Saipan.

Since then, it’s been one setback after another.

Earlier this year, the FBI conducted a search and made an arrest at the construction site on charges related to the 2016 death of a worker who fell 24 feet from scaffolding. The US law enforcement agency also apprehended two individuals working for MCC International, the Chinese contractor building the resort, for allegedly importing and harboring illegal aliens.

Imperial Pacific, led by CEO Mark Brown, a gaming industry veteran who has worked for Trump Entertainment Resorts and Las Vegas Sands, denies any wrongdoing and says it hasn’t been charged with any offenses.

Reining in Spending

When Imperial Pacific was first envisioned, the parent company said its budget would eclipse $7 billion to build a 4,200-room hotel and massive gaming space that could house over 1,600 tables. But Imperial Pacific has since cut its total spending to a little more than $3 billion, and greatly reduced its overall casino floor square footage.

Regardless, $3 billion is still a massive investment on an island that remains largely undeveloped. And getting to the 14-mile long and five-mile wide locale is no easy feat.

Direct flights are available from Japan’s Tokyo and Nagoya airports, South Korea’s Seoul, and Hong Kong. But the shortest of those trips is still a nearly four-hour flight.

Saipan International Airport is largely used by small general aviation aircraft. Of the 212 aircraft operations that take place each day on the airport’s two runways, just 15 are inbound or outbound commercial jets.

However, Saipan does allow up to 45 days of “visa upon arrival” travel for Chinese visitors, which provides a hassle-free international getaway for those coming from China.