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Lawmakers seek answers from casino commission

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THE House Committee on Gaming and the Senate Committee on Cannabis & Gaming held a joint meeting on Thursday afternoon with Commonwealth Casino Commission officials to discuss, among other things, the financial condition of Imperial Pacific International.

Also attending the meeting were IPI representatives Tao Xing and Su Hongtao and an interpreter, Henan Ma, who were in the gallery.

House Minority Leader Ed Propst and Rep. Tina Sablan wanted the IPI representatives to testify, but Tao Xing left the meeting early while Su Hongtao said he was willing to speak at a later date, upon receiving the go-ahead from the IPI chairwoman.

The House Committee on Gaming and the Senate Committee on Cannabis & Gaming held a joint meeting on Thursday afternoon to look into the financial condition of Imperial Pacific International. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

According to the interpreter, Su is a friend of the IPI chairwoman and is an IPI investor as well.

Lawmakers pressed CCC chairman Edward Deleon Guerrero, acting executive director Charlie Atalig, and their legal counsel Mike Ernest to disclose whether IPI is “broke,” as Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero phrased it.

The commission officials stated that they could not disclose such information due to confidentiality reasons.

Atalig, advised by Ernest, stated that breaking the confidentiality agreement would result in a lawsuit against the commission.

Atalig said lawmakers may want to consider passing legislation to allow the commission to bypass the confidentiality rules, and provide sufficient answers to the lawmakers’ questions about specific IPI activities and finances.

He and commission chairman Deleon Guerrero also proposed that lawmakers create a task force to aid the commission in its efforts to hold IPI accountable for its negligence.

 But Rep. Tina Sablan said the commission does not need legislative authority to form its task force.

Chairman Deleon Guerrero stated that IPI is not in compliance with the community benefit fund requirement, adding that nearly $10 million has already been paid from the CBF, but IPI will not authorize the release of the expenditure list.

House Minority Leader Propst said, “It is strange that IPI would not want to boast about how they invested $10 million in the CNMI community, as they have done in the past when they gave every Commonwealth Utilities Corp. customer a $600 voucher for utilities.”

He asked House Gaming Committee Chairman Ralph N. Yumul to subpoena the documents so that it is clear who the beneficiaries are for the $10 million.

The commission chairman, for his part, sought the lawmakers’ assistance in resolving the issues with IPI to satisfy all stakeholders, including community members.

 

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