Imperial Palace Asset Auction in Saipan Moves Forward, but CCC Wants Major Role

An auction of Imperial Palace assets could soon move forward after months of delays. If the Saipan casino is going to part ways with its gaming equipment and fixtures, the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) wants to be part.

Andrew Yeom, the executive director of the Commonwealth Casino Commission in the Northern Mariana Islands. He wants to have a role in a pending auction of assets of the embattled Imperial Palace casino in Saipan. (Image: Marianas Variety)

Imperial Pacific International (IPI) has repeatedly found ways to avoid losing its Saipan casino. It was close to losing assets months ago, but said it found money that would allow it to push forward. However, the money never materialized.

As a result, next month, IPI will owe the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) over $100 million. A judge might finally be ready to stop giving the company the benefit of the doubt.

CCC Has To Play A Role

The executive director of the CCC, Andrew Yeom, feels that the gaming regulator has to be part of any asset auction. In comments to the Saipan Tribune, he explained that all gaming equipment falls under the CCC’s oversight. As a result, it has to track where the assets go to make sure they remain in legal gaming channels.

In addition, all of the equipment carries labels and markings that indicate that it has served Saipan’s now-suspended gaming market. If the CCC doesn’t have oversight during the auction, it can’t guarantee that those labels and markings are removed. In addition, the regulator has hard drives in some IPI equipment.

Although he didn’t specifically state it, there could be another reason. The CCC likely wants to make sure the gaming equipment doesn’t come full circle and fall back into IPI’s hands.

IPI repeatedly convinced CNMI Chief Justice Ramona Manglona to block the sale of assets. However, after the embattled casino operator failed to produce tangible evidence that it had financial backing last month, she removed the block. That will allow Clear Management to move forward with its planned series of auctions.

Before that happens, however, the company has to prepare an inventory of items it wants to present. A judge, most likely Manglona, will review and approve the list, after which Clear Management can schedule its activities. Previously, there was a chance that the auctions would begin as of August 30.

Dwindling Operations

Imperial Palace hasn’t been in operation for several years. This is partly because of its ongoing issues, but also because of COVID-19. During this time, its workforce has shrunk significantly.

Now, it only has 14 employees, half of which provide security services. This is because of allegations of vandalism and a fire that IPI thought may have been arson. The other half performs administrative duties.

The company has repeatedly failed to pay its staff, causing resentment and bitterness. IPI owed its staff back pay for five consecutive pay periods, which it finally paid last month. However, at the end of the month, it was short once again.

Then, last week, the company reportedly paid that missed period plus the latest in September. However, as it continues to demonstrate ineffectiveness in managing its operations responsibly, the CNMI might finally be ready to give up.

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