Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd said in a filing it had a “soft opening” on Sunday of what it described as its “temporary casino” on the Pacific Island of Saipan (pictured).
The Saipan Tribune newspaper reported on Monday that the Lottery Commission of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands had given an Imperial Pacific International unit called Best Sunshine International Ltd “the go-signal Friday to open its ‘live’ gaming facility at the T Galleria, allowing the casino to hold a soft opening on Sunday”.
Best Sunshine International has an exclusive licence to operate a casino on Saipan, granted last year.
Mark Brown – who in November was appointed chief executive of Best Sunshine – was quoted by the newspaper saying the temporary facility launched with six baccarat tables.
Mr Brown described the event as “a very good turnout” and was quoted saying that he opened an additional three tables during the launch.
The executive was also reported as saying that a third-party firm would soon start testing 106 gaming machines for use in the property, and that they would likely be ready for use by early August.
On Tuesday, Imperial Pacific International said in a Hong Kong filing that trading in its shares had been halted from 9am that day. It said the reason was that on Monday, after trading hours, the firm had entered into a placing agreement with United Simsen Securities Ltd as placing agent in relation to the placing of convertible notes to be issued by the company.
A Sunday filing by Imperial Pacific International stressed that Best Sunshine International “is operating within the confines of the Saipan Casino Law, federal law to the extent applicable and the regulations established by the Commonwealth Casino Commission.” That was a reference, respectively, to a casino statute covering Saipan, to United States’ federal law and to the casino regulator of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, an archipelago of which Saipan is part and with similar status under U.S. law to Puerto Rico.
A U.S. District Court judge on Saipan ruled on June 1 that the U.S. Department of the Treasury has the authority to regulate casinos in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Imperial Pacific International’s Sunday filing added: “Given that neither the company nor any of its subsidiaries (including the licensee) would conduct any activities pertaining to the administration or management in Hong Kong which would involve gambling or bookmaking activity in Hong Kong, the gambling activities will not contravene any applicable laws of Hong Kong.”
Imperial Pacific International has its registered office in Hong Kong.
The Saipan Tribune quoted local casino commissioner Joseph Reyes saying that for now, the regulators would allow Best Sunshine to use its own “internal controls” while the commission completes its final regulations.
“As regulators, one of our aims is to track every dollar coming in. The internal controls they [Best Sunshine] have in the casino are even better than some banks,” Mr Reyes reportedly said.
Imperial Pacific International started life as a Hong Kong-listed frozen food business before acquiring the rights to a profit stream from a Macau junket investor. The firm has pledged to spend as much as US$7.1 billion on a permanent casino resort on Saipan.
Last month, another company called Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investments Ltd – said to be trading as Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino on the island of Tinian, part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – was ordered to pay a US$75 million civil penalty by U.S. federal authorities for allegedly violating that country’s anti-money-laundering rules. It was described as a record level of penalty for a casino. The property also agreed to forfeit US$3.04 million as part of a non-prosecution agreement made with the U.S. Department of Justice it was later reported.
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