The Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands has served Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC with notice to suspend or revoke its casino license if it doesn’t pay its annual US$15.5 million license fee.
Governor Ralph Torres sent a letter to IPI CEO Donald Browne on Wednesday, obtained by Inside Asian Gaming, in which he rejected a request by the Saipan casino operator for an abatement to its license fee requirement citing Commonwealth law.
IPI had requested the abatement last week, as well as postponement of a US$3 million regulatory fee, due to the impact of COVID-19, which has seen casino operations closed since March.
“I assume by ‘abatement for the year of 2020’ IPI seeks to be absolved from paying the required fee entirely,” Torres states in his letter.
“This request cannot be dealt with administratively as the fee has been set by law. The law that provided IPI’s obligation specifically as the Casino License Fee was unconditional.
“Further, the Casino Regulatory Fee is created by Commonwealth Law. The Force Majeure clause of the License Agreement cannot supersede an explicit statutory command of the Legislature. This is also true with regards to payment of the Casino License fee.”
Torres said that IPI was also in material breach of the Casino License Agreement by failing to pay its US$20 million Community Benefit Fund requirement. It was reported earlier this year that IPI is now US$37 million in arrears regarding its Community Benefit Fund obligations.
“This letter serves as the notice of intent to suspend or revoke the license required by Section 31 (of the Casino License Agreement),” Torres wrote.
“Pursuant to Section 31, IPI now is entitled to an ‘adequate and reasonable time to cure’ the breach.”