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The newest Asian gaming operator to lessen its employees’ work schedules in response to the coronavirus dilemma is Saipan casino operator Imperial Pacific International (IPI).

The Marianas Variety  published a statement it received from IPI on Tuesday, describing the company’s intentions to cut the work hours of staff at its Imperial Palace Resort by 30% owing to the “impact on travel demands throughout all of Asia” from the coronavirus epidemic. However, IPI emphasized that it remainsfully committed to the [Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands] as always.”

IPI then described its almost six-year history on Saipan, during which “our company has struggled, our employees have struggled, and our ability to create a steady stream of income has suffered.” IPI says it “has invested around $1 billion in the CNMI and paid over $300 million in taxes and fees to the government,” while IPI itself “lost over $500 million accumulatively.”

As reported by calvinayre.com, IPI then tried to clarify its decision to overlook its business gross revenue tax (BGRT) obligations, saying “IPI’s understanding is that it overpaid taxes by over $40m which will result [in] a refund.” Last week IPI reached a deal to pay approximately 60% of the $30m the government said it was owed.

As for the approximately $37m in unpaid community benefit fund contributions IPI was supposed to make under the terms of its gaming license, IPI said since 2018, it had contributed nearly $10m to this fund. However, IPI argued that it did so “with the expectation that it will be granted the public land needed to start the next phase of our project plan.”

The politician who has been the most outspoken trying to find out the status and/or locations of IPI’s fund contributions, CNMI Sen. Paul Manglona, told the Variety that there was nothing in IPI’s casino license agreement which required the community fund contributions were liable on IPI being given a public land lease.

Manglona also opposed IPI’s claim to have contributed $10m to the benefit fund. “Either the administration or IPI is lying because the administration earlier said that IPI has contributed $3m in 2018, so where is the rest of the $10m?

Currently, both IPI and CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres are under investigation for likely money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy charges linked to alleged illegal campaign contributions. Last November FBI agents raided the offices of Torres, a number of his family members and associates, in addition to IPI and one of its activists. Torres has denied the charges.

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