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House members tour IPI hotel-casino

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MEMBERS of the House Gaming Committee on Thursday toured the Imperial Pacific International hotel-casino as well as the proposed burial site for the ancestral remains that were dug up at the Garapan site.

Committee chairman Rep. Ralph Yumul said construction of the hotel-casino is approximately 80% completed.

“During the last meeting [with the Commonwealth Casino Commission] that we had here in the House, [IPI] extended the invitation to look at the facility. We accepted,” he said.

Noting the closure of the gaming floor during the current community vulnerability level blue, Yumul said: “We entered the villa. We were not allowed to go to the gaming [floor]. The villas were very impressive, but at the same time, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

He added, “There’s also uncertainty with what’s going on with [IPI’s] federal case, and all of the lawsuits, so there were more questions than we were able to ask.”

He said also present on the tour were members of the Commonwealth Casino Commission, as well as representatives from the Office of the Public Auditor.

He said to date, it is still unclear who the actual executives are of IPI, noting that the persons conducting the tour were IPI representatives with no ultimate authority over the facility operations.

“We have no communication with the owners of IPI. We’re still going to pose these questions to IPI, if given the chance. We have to be guided by the casino commission. Right now, they’re the arm that can communicate with them,” he said.

As for the burial site for the ancestral remains, Yumul said, “We were allowed to also visit the burial site. It will be completed sometime in July.”

Regarding the next steps of the committee, he said that another sit-down with the casino commission executives is imminent.

“Right now, even CCC is not getting straight answers. There is some confusion because of the federal court’s ruling [against IPI] …so there is a lot of moving parts now with the casino. It is what it is. We’re just going to have to wait and see if we get to meet with the owners, or at least higher-ranking officials of IPI, to get some clarity with what’s going on with regards to payroll and other issues that they have right now,” he said.

When asked about his stance on whether or not the construction should continue, Yumul said, “It will be a shame to not complete it…. If it does, we don’t know. We don’t know if there’s going to be a receivership during which the court takes over so that the labor issues ae cleared out, [as well as] the fines [and] penalties. We don’t know.”

He added, “It would be a shame if it became so close to completing it, and now it’s going to stop. It’s going to hurt everyone in the community and the CNMI government. We pretty much put all our eggs into one basket, and we’re almost there, but it’s starting to get a lot dimmer now.”

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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