Northern Marianas Casino Regulator Reports Progress in Saipan Resort Villas Construction

The Northern Marianas Casino Commission has asked Hong Kong-listed integrated resort developer Imperial Pacific International to fast-track the construction of luxury villas as part of its major development in the village of Garapan on the Saipan Island.

Casino Commission Chairman Juan Sablan and other officials from the regulator inspected the site of the hotel and casino complex property last week. Mr. Sablan told local media that there has been progress in the construction of the 15 villas that are planned to be added to the integrated resort, but there was still a lot of work to be done. The official further noted that IPI should take the necessary measures to speed up the process.

IPI, a Hong Kong-listed developer, holds the only license for the operation of a casino on Saipan. The company opened its gambling venue in 2015 as part of a larger development project that is yet to be completed.

Mr. Sablan told local media that the developer should introduce a 24-hour work schedule to ramp up construction activity at the site. He also explained that the delays in construction work were mainly due to the fact that Pacific Rim, the contractor working on the project, is yet to reach the necessary agreements with the IPI’s hotel and casino management.

Kathleen David, project manager at Pacific Rim, said that a contract is still being worked on. She further pointed out that they had only 40 personnel at present, mostly at management level.

The 15 villas were supposed to be completed by Friday, August 31. While the deadline was missed, other commissioners admitted that progress was being made.

IPI in Hot Water

Earlier in August, IPI asked for a two-year extension to complete the development of its resort after it became clear that it would miss its previously granted August 31 and December 31 deadlines. Northern Mariana gaming regulators issued an extension to February 21, 2021 for the hotel and casino project to be completed.

IPI has agreed to pay $5,000 for every day of delay and to donate $500,000 for new medical equipment for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, which runs the Northern Marianas’ only hospital. According to information from different media sources, the Northern Mariana Lottery Commission is still debating whether it should allow IPI to open already completed portions of its hotel and casino resort.

August was an eventful month for the Hong Kong-listed company as it issued a profit warning and later on announced that its profits for the six months ended June 30 slumped mainly due to uncollectable VIP gambling debts. IPI recorded gross profit earnings of nearly HK$2 million, down from HK$4.1 million reported for the same period a year ago.

The company offers direct credit to its VIP players instead of using junket operators. According to media reports, IPI had to write off $733 million in uncollectable gambling debts and nearly half of that amount was generated from 10 VIP patrons of its casino.

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