After Typhoon Soudelor (Hanna) the strongest tropical cyclone of the 2015 Pacific typhoon season took its toll on the early construction of Imperial Pacific’s Phase I casino resort project in Saipan, myriad other minor and major setbacks have kept the company bent into the wind in a race against opening deadlines and the potential of $100,000 per day fines if the Garapan casino resort doesn’t open on time.
For good measure, throw in a fire that ignited in construction debris piled against the burgeoning structure yesterday, and a small but vocal contingent of local naysayers, allegations of AML violations in a civil suit filed by a terminated employee, less than clear accounts receivable on a temporary casino’s world record VIP gaming turnover and the picture of an uphill battle for the company’s multi-billion dollar plans for the tiny CNMI island starts to become more clear.
On March 13, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC submitted a request to amend their casino license agreement in hopes of extending the deadline to complete construction of its hotels and casinos, the first of which is expected to open with gaming by the end of the month in a ‘soft launch’.
Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar, the former CNMI Lottery Commission chairman who signed a 40 year deal with the company, is supporting the extension. He relayed to local media outlet the Saipan Tribune recently that the whole matter has been an exercise in ‘faith’ on both sides from the beginning. “Without faith, it would not work, this thing would have never been signed. We will be overwhelmed with doubt,” he told the online newspaper.
He noted that monies received so far from the company’s temporary casino and training center, Best Sunshine Live, have helped the government pay down obligations they previously had no way of honoring, and future revenues could “help the government to be able to retire all of these debts and pay off what we owe people.”
Igisomar was clear to state the overriding purpose of Saipan’s relationship with the Hong Kong-listed company, adding, “It is not all about money but for the betterment of our people and for them to be healthier and wealthier. For everything that we do, we should consider that,” Igisomar said.
Independent sources have informed World Casino News of several factors that may be causing delays in Imperial Pacific Resort (formerly Grand Mariana Resort) opening, and some of them have been born out publically. Imperial Pacific has refused requests for clarifications and offered no comments recently.
According to a letter from Mark Brown of IPI to Governor Torres, cited by the Tribune “At the starting phase of construction, [we] had one heavy equipment auger and two pile drive machines. The auger was extensively damaged … during the [typhoon], rendering it inoperable.”
Unpredictable ground conditions, limited cement supply, issues of dewatering, gaining air rights for cranes, foul weather, the lack of available skilled laborers, CW1 and H1 visa issues for imported labor, requirements for U.S. citizen worker participation, land lease of public lands in Garapan, and issues with Phase II and III at the current Mariana Resort & Spa location in Marpi have all contributed to the delay according to published and unpublished reports.
Under the current license agreement, Imperial Pacific has proposed to add over 2,000 hotel rooms, a total of 180,000 square feet of casino floor space, nearly 150,000 sq ft of retail, a 600 seat theater, about 100,000 sq ft of convention space with a ballroom, a wedding chapel, over 30,000 sq ft of spa and fitness space, and a $100 million themed entertainment facility.
The company’s current commitment seems to be somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion with earlier estimates reaching as high as $7 billion.