Imperial Pacific Launches Permanent Casino In Saipan Amidst Worker Protests

Hong Kong-based casino operator Imperial Pacific International Holdings inaugurated the permanent complex for its casino on the island of Saipan last week even as workers protested over unpaid wages.

Saipan Island is a part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and comes under the jurisdiction of the United States. Imperial Pacific is the sole casino operator licensed to operate a casino on the island. The company launched a temporary casino called the Best Sunshine Live casino in 2015 and has been simultaneously working to develop a permanent casino called the Imperial Pacific Resort Hotel Saipan.

Best Sunshine Live has been drawing wide interest with its high volume VIP gaming turnover during the last couple of years. According to stock exchange filings, Best Sunshine Live recorded VIP gaming revenue of nearly $32 billion last year from just 16 gaming tables beating established properties in Macau and Las Vegas. The casino has been successful in attracting Chinese high rollers as Saipan is just a four hour flight from Shanghai, China.

Imperial Pacific Resort

The permanent complex’s development had been delayed by months due to several reasons including financial difficulties. The opening of the permanent casino last week was a low-key event with casino officials stating that a formal ceremony would be held later in the year.

As a part of the soft launch, Imperial Pacific CEO Kwong Yiu Ling along with majority shareholder Margaret Cui Lijie welcomed guests to the new property. A spacious lobby as well as a 140,000-square- foot gaming floor is now open for visitors while other portions are still being built. Eventually the casino will feature nearly 70 gaming tables and 190 electronic gaming machines.

According to earlier reports, a significant portion of the gaming areas will be dedicated to exclusive VIP facilities. A luxury hotel facility is currently under construction and will have a total of 330 hotel rooms and is expected to open by August 2018.

Several issues have dogged the project. During the construction of the facility, the FBI had probed the death of a construction worker and raided the office premises of one of Imperial Pacific’s contractors. Additionally there have been reports of U.S. authorities investigating the casino over money-laundering. Imperial Pacific announced recently that it was working on improving its compliance with local and federal regulations surrounding unauthorized workers.

The opening wasn’t a smooth one as it was marred by protests by Chinese construction workers who had been hired by contractors for the project. The workers alleged that they were missing several months of pay amounting to at least RMB40,000 (MOP47,300). They have stated that they wouldn’t be leaving until the pending money is paid out.