The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has filed a federal tax lien against the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) of the Northern Mariana Islands, claiming over $5.8 million in unpaid taxes dating back to 2022. According to the Saipan Tribune, this action was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, with CCC chair Edward Deleon Guerrero suggesting that the filing might be a mistake.

Deleon Guerrero stated, “I think someone at the IRS made a mistake. We are a government agency, not a small business, nor self-employed, nor a corporation. The Department of Finance processes all our employee payroll. All required Social Security withholding are done by DOF not CCC. Also, [the mailing address listed] is not our mailing address, it’s the CNMI DOF.”

The CCC has been struggling financially since the temporary closure of the Imperial Pacific International (IPI) casino in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. IPI, the CCC’s sole source of funding through an annual $3.15 million regulatory fee, has failed to make payments since 2020. This funding shortfall led to the temporary closure of the CCC’s office in January 2023.

Previously, the CCC had requested over $4 million in funding from the government to cover personnel, operations, and other costs. However, the revised budget for the 2025 financial year allocated only $2 to the CCC. Despite the CCC board chair Rafael S. Demapan and executive director Andrew Yeom’s request for at least $1.1 million to sustain the commission for a year, the severe budget cuts have left the agency in a precarious position.

More Claims of Unpaid Debts

The IRS’s filing states that for the tax period ending December 31, 2022, the CCC owes an unpaid balance of $5,863,195.43. Revenue officer Martin Humpert, in the tax lien, indicated that the IRS has demanded payment but has yet to receive it. Humpert stated, “As provided by section 6321, 6322, and 6323 of the Internal Revenue Code, we are giving a notice that taxes (including interest and penalties) have been assessed against [CCC]. We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid. Therefore, there is a lien in favor of the United States on all property and rights to property belonging to this taxpayer for the amount of these taxes, and additional penalties, interest, and costs that may accrue.”

Imperial Pacific International, which had its listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange officially canceled on June 17th, still faces claims of approximately $62 million in unpaid casino license fees to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), relating to nearly four years of non-payment. This financial debacle has exacerbated the CCC’s budget crisis, with its operations heavily dependent on the regulatory fees that IPI has failed to pay.

The CCC’s future remains uncertain as it navigates its financial difficulties and legal challenges. With its office closed and funds dwindling, the commission’s ability to fulfill its regulatory duties is severely hampered. The outcome of the IRS’s tax lien and the CCC’s budgetary issues will likely play a critical role in determining the gaming regulator’s future operational capacity in the Northern Mariana Islands.