By Troy Torres
Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC will not be paying its 2020 annual casino license fee of $15.5 million to the Commonwealth government, and is asking for an abatement of its obligation under the casino license agreement to pay the fee because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter dated yesterday to Gov. Ralph Torres, Senate president Victor Hocog, House speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, Attorney General Edward Manibusan, Lottery Commission chairman Mark Rabauliman, and Commonwealth Casino Commission executive director Andrew Yeom, IPI CNMI CEO Donald Browne explained that the casino has made no income over the past five months, and will not reopen until next year because of COVID-19.
Mr. Browne then invokes Paragraph 25 of the CLA, which says "Licensee shall not be in default for any failure or delay in the performance due under this License Agreement if such failure or delay is due to causes beyond reasonable control including, but not limited to: Act(s) of God, war(s), strike(s) or labor dispute(s), embargo(es), act(s) of terrorism, fire(s), flood(s), or accident(s) without the fault or negligence of the Licensee ("Force Majeure Event").
The non-payment of the fee greatly diminishes the Commonwealth government's options to stabilize government finances and get its government employees, including teachers, back to work.
While the current Force Majeure Event may excuse IPI from default of its license fee, IPI's previous non-payments still are outstanding and unresolved.
The CCC has not revoked the casino's license based on the prior default, and the Lottery Commission hasn't even met.
View the letter below: