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Deyan Dimitrov January 10, 2024 3 min read
IPI Loses All Hope as Supreme Court Denies Appeal
The beleaguered operator has exhausted all options to salvage its business after a legal battle spanning over three years
Imperial Pacific International (IPI) faced another crippling blow on Monday as the US Supreme Court rejected its petition, upholding the Ninth Circuit’s previous ruling regarding the case. This decision allows the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) to proceed with the revocation hearing concerning IPI’s casino license and will likely spell the end for Imperial Palace Casino in Saipan.
The Operator Exhausted All Legal Options
The casino, operated by IPI, ceased operations in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering a license suspension in April 2021 for failure to pay its license fees. IPI contested this decision, citing force majeure as the primary reason behind its casino closure. However, the Supreme Court highlighted that the force majeure event had concluded, and IPI had to pay its dues.
IPI, in response, filed civil suits against the CCC, alleging breaches in the casino license contract and an overstepping of its regulatory role in interpreting the agreement. The following legal disputes won the beleaguered operator some extra time to resolve its most pressing issues, but its efforts appear to have been in vain.
The CCC’s final compromise gave IPI until 30 December 2023 to pay back the $62 million in missed license fees or lose its license for good. That deadline passed without any attempts from the operator to pay its dues. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the CCC is now free to hold a revocation hearing, which will likely spell the end of this saga.
A License Revocation Seems Inevitable
Commission representatives expressed relief at the Supreme Court’s decision, welcoming the opportunity to determine the fate of IPI’s license. Commissioner Ramon Dela Cruz stressed that IPI had ample time and due process to address its financial obligations to the CNMI government. The upcoming revocation hearing is scheduled for 31 January 2024 and should finally put the matter to rest.
Attorney General Edward E. Manibusan hailed the recent legal breakthrough, stressing the importance of enforcing IPI’s obligations to the CNMI. Although a license revocation is a natural next step for the Commission, the Commonwealth will likely face difficulties collecting its dues, as IPI has exhausted most of its assets, even auctioning off its liquor inventory.
This victory is important for the people of the Commonwealth in enforcing IPI’s failure to meet its contractual and statutory obligations to the people of the CNMI.Attorney General Edward E. Manibusan
Despite legal challenges and appeals, the ruling from the highest court in the country affirms the CCC’s authority to pursue the revocation of IPI’s casino license. Although the process includes an official hearing, it is little more than a formality. This case highlights the lengths to which even a smaller casino operator will go to salvage its business, even against overwhelming odds.