23 Feb 2018
- By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
THE Commonwealth Casino Commission on Thursday denied that its members are corrupt or are engaged in corruption.
Reacting to the Bloomberg article titled “A Chinese Casino Has Conquered a Piece of America,” an emotional commission chair Juan Sablan said: “It hurts my feelings; it breaks my heart. We are not corrupt. In fact we are paying for everything we do here. For the work we do, we are not getting any money. We are questioning every detail of the (casino) operations. Please, I ask the community, if you know anyone on the commission doing such things, report it to the police, to the media or to the FBI as we don’t tolerate such actions. But no one here has received anything of value from IPI,” Sablan said, referring to the casino investor, Imperial Pacific International.
Vice chair Joseph Reyes said although the casino commission can be considered an infant when it comes to regulating the gaming industry, they have come a long way and have matured in doing their job.
“I give ourselves a pat on the back for doing a great job. We have exerted so much effort to be on top of everything here and…we have…move[d] forward in what we need to do. I am offended by the accusations of corruption as none of us here are corrupt and I am not corrupt. I dare the [Bloomberg] writer to prove it. I challenge him to prove his accusations.”
Commissioner Alvaro Santos said their legal counsel should come up with an official response to the allegations made against the commission.
Commission Executive Director Edward Deleon Guerrero said he has prepared a statement for the media that answers each allegations made in the Bloomberg article point by point.
Deleon Guerrero, who is the governor’s uncle, noted that he was hired by the commission before his nephew became governor. He added that the commissioners themselves were appointed by the late Gov. Eloy Inos.
He said the Bloomberg article was exaggerated, far from the truth, unfounded and unfair.
“It’s obvious that this is a political year — it’s the political season, but we are not politicians, we are regulators of the industry,” Deleon Guerrero said. “The [commission] has tried to do the right thing…and regulate the industry. This writer came here and spent 30 minutes of his time looking around the island and listed a lot of facts in his article [that are] selective and accuses the administration of corruption. He pulled me in and indicated that I am the governor’s uncle, but failed to mention that I was not hired by the governor but by the commission before he became governor. He failed to recognize that none of the commissioners were appointed by the governor. He twisted the facts and made it look like we’re in collusion. It’s exaggerated, uncalled for and very unfair,” he said.
“IPI became the low-hanging fruit, easy to pick and easy to criticize.”
Deleon Guerrero also defended the governor’s family whose members, from humble beginnings, worked their way up toward success.
He said the governor and his siblings worked hard to get themselves a college education in the U.S.
“To accuse them of doing something bad is…horrible. To say that they have a financial stake in IPI’s success — I say that everyone does, all agencies do, everyone here has a financial stake in IPI’s success, and it’s reasonable to expect that all CNMI residents have a financial stake in IPI’s success.”
Deleon Guerrero said the commission is doing its best to protect its integrity.
“We have hired the best people and experts to help us regulate the industry and to ensure they are in compliance. If you know of anyone not doing the right thing, I urge you to report it to the FBI, the media or the police because we don’t tolerate such things. And we do not accept anything from IPI.”
He noted that they are still reviewing IPI’s junket applications.
“We are looking at the junket process very meticulously…. We are investigating all the current junket applicants and we are doing our due diligence [before we] proceed forward…. We are working with [experts] in Las Vegas to look at the background of these junket applicants.”
He said they have also fined and sanctioned individuals committing violations related to the operations of the casino industry.
Deleon Guerrero provided the media with a copy of some questions asked by the Bloomberg and the commission’s replies:
Bloomberg: “The story will note that Imperial Pacific’s power on Saipan has been made possible by its alliance with Gov. Ralph Torres. It will note that this alliance has been secured through financial transactions between IPI and the Torres family worth millions of dollars giving members of the governor’s family a direct financial stake in the company’s success.”
CCC: “It is safe to assume that IPI financial success in its business operations is in the best interest of the CNMI and its people. In this regard, it is reasonable to expect that all CNMI residents have a financial stake in IPI’s success.”
Bloomberg: “IPI’s casino represents on paper at least the highest-volume gambling operation in history on a per-table basis with betting totals as much as six times greater than the top Macau casinos.”
CCC: “The CCC notes that the rolling volume is large. The commonwealth has a low tax structure which the CCC believes dis-incentivizes the tax avoidance schemes believed to be prevalent elsewhere which keep reported volumes lower than actual. Other possible contributing factors to Saipan witnessing a very high volume of gambling operations on a per-table basis may be due to combinations of the following factors: IPI’s ownership stems from one of the largest junkets in Macau, it thus has a very strong network in the VIP market; due to strong ties to VIP patrons; China’s anti-corruption campaign has diversified VIP patrons to a new place around the Asia Pacific region such as Saipan and the visa-waiver program available for Chinese players has eased their trips into Saipan.”
Bloomberg: “These figures have shocked casino industry veterans, given Macau’s status as a hub for large-scale money laundering. Eight casino executives and analysts interviewed for the story said they could see no way such figures could be generated legitimately.”
CCC: “In reference to the rolling volume, the numbers being reported are true. The CCC has a full-time Audit and Compliance Division that reviews the daily rolling transactions. The reported gaming activities and more specifically the rolling volumes are true figures.”
Bloomberg: “There have been repeated floods of sewage in the basement level in some cases leaving an ankle-deep sludge of human waste.”
CCC: “The hotel portion of the complex remains under construction and per amendment No. 5 of the Casino License Agreement, is required to be finished by the end of August 2018. The statement, however is an exaggeration. The CCC is aware of two incidents involving leaks in the sewage systems. One was caused by human error involving the sewer pumps, whereby a pump was supposed to be set to automatic but was inadvertently switched to manual during maintenance and the other was due to a faulty float-valve in the sewage tank. The Bureau of Environmental Health was quickly notified and the BEH conducted their inspections to assure and maintain health and safety issues. Both problems were addressed and immediately corrected. Your statement about an ankle-deep sludge of human waste is false and inaccurate.”
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/102475-casino-commissioners-we-are-not-corrupt