After announcing in February that it would be applying for an extension to continue operating its temporary Best Sunshine Live casino past an April 30 deadline, Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited has now reportedly been granted official permission to carry on running the Saipan training facility at its current location for over another year.

According to a report from the local Marianas Variety newspaper, the Tuesday decision from the three-member Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands Lottery Commission means that the Best Sunshine Live casino may continue operations in an upscale Garapan shopping mall until August 31, 2018.

Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited secured the exclusive casino license for Saipan from the government of the Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands in August of 2015 before spending around $25 million to open its Best Sunshine Live casino two months later. This facility has since been utilized as a live training venue for the under-construction and much larger Imperial Pacific Resort And Hotel Saipan and ended its first year in operation by reporting annual VIP table games rolling chip turnover of nearly $32.37 billion.

Set to feature 200 to 300 gaming tables along with 300 to 400 slots, the $500 million Imperial Pacific Resort And Hotel Saipan was designed by architectural practice Steelman Partners and had originally been due to open “by 2017 Chinese New Year”, which began on January 28, but Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited has delayed this inauguration numerous times after being hit by a series of problems caused by 2015’s Typhoon Saudelor. In addition to issues surrounding storm damage, the firm has moreover encountered difficulties in securing enough cement while also blaming the holdups on a lack of available skilled labor, unpredictable ground conditions, drainage hindrances, inclement weather and rights matters concerning construction tower cranes.

“We need to make sure that we follow the laws and the procedures,” Viola Alepuyo, Special Projects Vice-President for Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited, told the Marianas Variety on Tuesday. “We don’t want to rush it. We just want to do it right and that’s why we pushed for this extension.”

Tuesday also reportedly saw the Commonwealth of The Northern Mariana Islands Lottery Commission grant Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited permission to extend the opening date deadline for its Imperial Pacific Resort And Hotel Saipan by over another year to August 31, 2018, despite protests concerning allegations that some of the firm’s sub-contractors may have hired illegal workers.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to this and pretend nothing is happening,” Vinson Sablan, a member of the Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands House Of Representatives, told the Marianas Variety. “There are illegal workers, their poor living conditions and the pollution of the environment and these factors cannot be ignored. We need to make sure we take control of this industry and this development and make sure it benefits us and our people. There is a delay in the construction because of the protesting illegal workers. So we should look at these factors also. Don’t make it our emergency. I ask that Imperial Pacific International [Holdings Limited] look into this and take control of its contractors and make sure things are done right and laws are followed.”

The newspaper reported that fellow CNMI House of Representatives member Edwin Propst used the occasion to ask officials whether the Best Sunshine Live facility should be paying a higher rate of tax although Alepuyo allegedly responded by pointing out that the casino is already contributing significant amounts of cash that go towards helping to fund a range of critical public programs and services.

“The extension is a good thing in terms of getting stuff done,” Edmund Villagomez, a senior member of the Commonwealth Of The Northern Mariana Islands House Of Representatives, told the newspaper. “We’ve seen a lot of employees showing up today [and] that is good. They have done a lot of good stuff but we can’t just ignore the bad stuff.”

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