Imperial Pacific International (IPI) suffered another setback as the US Supreme Court rejected its petition, upholding the Ninth Circuit’s previous ruling. This decision allows the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) to move forward with the revocation hearing concerning IPI’s casino license, which will likely lead to the closure of the Imperial Palace Casino in Saipan.
The casino, operated by IPI, ceased operations in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and had its license suspended in April 2021 for failing to pay license fees. IPI argued that the force majeure event of the pandemic was the reason for its closure, but the Supreme Court ruled that the event had ended and IPI was required to pay its dues.
In response, IPI filed civil suits against the CCC, claiming breaches in the casino license contract and an overstepping of its regulatory role. The legal disputes bought IPI some time, but the recent Supreme Court decision seems to have sealed the operator’s fate.
The CCC’s final compromise gave IPI until December 30, 2023, to pay back the $62 million in missed license fees or face permanent revocation. However, the operator made no attempt to pay its dues, allowing the CCC to proceed with the revocation hearing.
Commission representatives expressed relief at the Supreme Court’s decision, as it gives them the opportunity to determine the fate of IPI’s license. The revocation hearing is scheduled for January 31, 2024, and should bring the matter to a close.
Attorney General Edward E. Manibusan emphasized the importance of enforcing IPI’s obligations to the CNMI, but collecting the dues may prove challenging as IPI has already exhausted most of its assets.
Despite legal challenges and appeals, the ruling from the highest court affirms the CCC’s authority to pursue the revocation of IPI’s casino license, making the upcoming hearing a mere formality. This case highlights the lengths to which a casino operator will go to salvage its business, even against overwhelming odds.