It’s simple: We just want IPI to follow the law

By Edwin Propst, Tina Sablan, Edmund Villagomez , Sheila Babauta, Richard Lizama, and Donald Manglona

Posted onJan 06 2020

 (2015년 북마리아나 카지노 사업의 승인이후, 카지노 독점권을 가진 회사인 IPI는 북마리아나 내에서 수많은 이슈와 문제를 일으켰습니다. IPI가 지불하는 보상금이 지역사회에 큰 기여를 하고 있음에도 여전히 각종 사고와 법률소송이 진행되고 있으며, 지켜지지 않는 약속들로 인하여 북마리아나 주민들은 점점 의혹과 불만을 표충하고 있습니다. 본 기고문은 북마리아나를 대표하는 오피니언 리더들의 글로서 이를 개제하여 소개합니다)

Editor’s Note: The following was submitted by members of the minority bloc of the CNMI House of representatives in the 21st Legislature.

Casino apologists and proponents often accuse House minority members of being “anti-casino” and overly critical of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, d.b.a. Best Sunshine, and the casino industry on Saipan. The truth is we are not. We just want IPI to follow our laws and the casino license agreement. Is that such a bad thing?

While the pro-casino group turns a blind eye to multiple violations and red flags, the House minority members speak out and seek to hold IPI and the government accountable. When have we spoken out? In the 19th, 20th, and 21st legislatures. Here are 17 examples of House minority members speaking out on behalf of the people of the CNMI, with their best interests at heart:

1. When CNMI Public Law 18-56, the law that legalized casino gambling on Saipan, failed to include a gross gaming revenue tax for the casino industry on Saipan. Saipan is the only place in the entire world with a casino industry and no gross gaming revenue tax. Minority members in the 19th and 20th legislatures introduced legislation to provide for a casino gross gaming revenue tax, but it failed to gain support from the GOP leadership and the administration. In the 21st Legislature, minority members are trying again—this time with a local gaming tax for the 3rd Senatorial District.

2. When IPI violated the Smoke-free Air Act of 2008 (P.L. 16-45) with its temporary casino built inside the Duty Free Galleria. IPI failed to build walls or an enclosure to keep smoke inside the casino, thereby subjecting employees and patrons of Hard Rock Café and Duty Free Galleria and boutiques to noxious cigarette fumes. Many employees complained to us and we demanded IPI follow the law. After many battles, IPI finally complied.

3. When the GOP majority in the Legislature and the administration pushed to take the $15-million annual casino license fee away from retirees to ensure they receive 100% of their pensions, and gave it to the three senatorial districts to spend as they please. This legislation became Public Law 20-10. House minority members voted no to this bill, but it still became law. Sorry, retirees. We tried. Sadly, it was retirees who lobbied for the legalization of casino gambling on Saipan to protect their pensions.

4. When IPI was not required to provide a construction completion bond for its casino hotel. Minority members advocated for a mandatory completion bond to ensure the casino hotel project in Garapan would meet construction deadlines and be finished on time. That bond requirement appeared in the original version of H.B. 19-95, but a last-minute amendment on the House floor removed the requirement from this bill. The House minority members voted no to the bill. Why the completion bond requirement was removed from this legislation remains to be answered, but one thing is clear: only IPI benefited. Five years into the project, casino construction is far from complete.

5. When IPI and the administration amended the casino license agreement eight times and counting. The amendments have included multiple extensions on construction deadlines, and no penalties have been imposed for delays or damage. Every single amendment has been favorable to IPI.

6. When IPI was fined $210,000 by BECQ for polluting the Garapan lagoon on multiple occasions. These egregious crimes against our environment and public health were completely unconscionable and totally avoidable.

7. When IPI blocked off half of the public road in front of their casino, financially crippling many of the small businesses along that street and adjoining streets. These small businesses complained multiple times, and it seems only a few of us heard them. Some have finally sued.

8. When local employees at the casino complained they were receiving a lower hourly wage than their Chinese counterparts who had the same duties and responsibilities. According to the local employees, they were paid less because they didn’t speak Mandarin. We encouraged them to file complaints with the Federal Wage Commission under the U.S. Department of Labor along with a complaint to our local Department of Labor.

9. When there were multiple protests and strikes by foreign construction workers who were not getting paid their promised salaries and were living in deplorable housing conditions, many of whom left island without full compensation. A few of us actually went and met with them and even dropped off food and water that were donated by concerned citizens and non-profit agencies.

10. When a construction worker was killed on site and multiple OSHA violations were discovered at IPI’s construction site that resulted in dozens of documented injuries, many of them life-threatening and debilitating, with some workers losing limbs and becoming paralyzed. CHCC doctors and nurses and administrators were well aware of all of these horrific injuries, but somehow the CNMI administration was not. We do not know what action, if any, the CNMI government took to protect these workers, but we do know that many were never compensated for their injuries, and some have finally sued IPI and its contractors.

11. When IPI failed to pay its developer’s infrastructure tax. To date, IPI still owes an estimated $18 million in developer’s infrastructure taxes, and no government agency with any authority seems to be doing anything to make IPI pay what it owes. What other business is allowed to get away with this?

12. When IPI failed to pay its corporate income and business gross revenue taxes. According to a 2018 audit, IPI owed $33 million in corporate income taxes and $5 million in business gross revenue taxes to the CNMI government. In 2019, IPI only paid a measly $41,000 in BGRT. How much will IPI owe in 2020?

13. When IPI failed to pay out the Community Benefit Fund, a requirement under the license agreement. The 2018 audit showed that IPI owed $17 million in Community Benefit Fund distributions, and an additional $20 million as of Oct. 1, 2019. No one in the administration—not the governor, not the Lottery Commission, not the Casino Commission—seems to want to answer questions about why IPI is not being required to honor this contractual obligation.

14. When IPI failed to pay dozens of vendors. A 2018 audit showed that IPI owed more than $35 million to vendors. Some of these vendors are now suing IPI, and many have petitioned the Commonwealth Casino Commission to exercise its authority to compel IPI to pay up.

15. When IPI sued the Commonwealth Casino Commission to prevent the commission from releasing public information that was requested through an Open Government Act request filed by Rep. Ed Propst in his official capacity. IPI lost that lawsuit in federal court and the CCC complied with the OGA request. The records released included IPI’s financial statements that are required by CNMI law to be disclosed.

16. When the FBI raided the construction companies working for IPI and arrested construction officials for illegally employing tourists. These construction officials later pleaded guilty to harboring aliens.

17. When the FBI raided IPI offices and seized computers, files, and personal cell phones of IPI executives and employees. Search warrant records for this second FBI raid involving IPI indicate the feds are looking at the casino’s possible involvement in money laundering, fraud, and public corruption.

House minority members want the casino to succeed, but we also expect the casino and its proponents to honor the laws they are bound to, like all other businesses. We expect IPI to live up to its promises to our people and we object to any special privileges that allow IPI to operate above the laws of the Commonwealth and outside norms for the casino industry.

The mere fact that IPI is the only casino in the entire world that does not pay a gross gaming revenue tax is deeply troubling. This gaming revenue tax could have been used to help our people living in tents. It could have been used to rebuild our broken homes and schools and infrastructure. It could have been used to pay down land compensation claims and to help fund our healthcare system. And while the casino has enriched a few privileged and well-connected people, the majority of our people do not see direct benefits from the casino industry.

House minority members are not the “opposition.” We are advocates for good governance. We are not beholden to the casino, or any special interest. We are independent-minded and we speak freely and from the heart. Perhaps one day the minority will become the majority. Whether that happens through the will of the voters or not, we will continue to be a voice for the people we serve, and no special interest group will ever silence us.

We wish all the people of the Commonwealth a blessed and healthy 2020.

간단합니다. 우리는 IPI가 법을 따르기를 원합니다.

Edwin Propst, Tina Sablan, Edmund Villagomez, Sheila Babauta, Richard Lizama, Donald Manglona

편집자 주 : 다음은 제 21 차 입법부 CNMI 하원 소수파 회원들이 제출 한 것입니다.

카지노 사과 자들과 지지자들은 하원 소수 민족이“반 카지노”라고 비난하고 임페리얼 퍼시픽 인터내셔널 (CNMI) LLC, d.b.a를 지나치게 비판한다고 비난하는 경우가 많습니다. 최고의 선샤인과 사이판 카지노 산업. 사실 우리는 그렇지 않습니다. 우리는 IPI가 우리의 법률과 카지노 라이센스 계약을 따르기를 바랍니다. 그게 그렇게 나쁜가요?

친 카지노 그룹이 여러 번의 위반과 위험 신호에 눈을 멀게하는 동안 하원 소수 민족 구성원은 목소리를 내고 IPI와 정부에 책임을 묻기 위해 노력합니다. 우리는 언제 말했습니까? 19, 20, 21 대 입법부에서. 다음은 북 마리아나 제도 국민을 대표하여 자신의 이익을 최우선으로 생각하는 하원 소수 민족 구성원의 17 가지 예입니다.

1. 사이판 카지노 도박을 합법화한 CNMI 공법 18-56이 사이판 카지노 산업에 대한 수입세를 포함하지 않았을 때. 사이판은 카지노 산업과 게임 수입 세가 없는 세계 유일의 장소입니다.

2. IPI가 면세점 갤러리아 내에 임시 카지노를 건설하여 2008년 금연 항공법 (P.L. 16-45)을 위반했을 때. IPI는 카지노 내부에 연기를 막기 위해 벽이나 인클로저를 구축하지 못했으며, 이로 인해 Hard Rock Café와 Duty Free Galleria 및 부티크의 직원과 고객은 유해한 담배 연기에 노출되었습니다. 많은 직원들이 우리에게 불만을 제기했고 우리는 IPI가 법을 따르도록 요구했습니다. 많은 전투 끝에 IPI는 마침내 준수했습니다.

3. 입법부와 행정부의 GOP 다수가 퇴직자들이 연금을 100 %받을 수 있도록 연간 1,500 만 달러의 카지노 라이센스 수수료를 빼앗아 가고, 3 개 상원 의원 지구에 원하는 대로 지출하도록 했습니다. 이 법안은 공법 20-10이 되었습니다. 하원 소수대표자들은 이 법안에 반대표를 던졌지만 법안은 통과되었습니다. 슬프게도 연금을 보호하기 위해 사이판에서 카지노 도박의 합법화를 위해 로비한 것은 은퇴 연금을 기대하는 그룹이었습니다.

4. IPI가 카지노 호텔에 건설 완료 보증금을 제공 할 필요가 없는 경우. 소수 권익 대표자들은 가라판의 카지노 호텔 프로젝트가 건설 기한을 지키고 제 시간에 완료 될 수 있도록 의무적인 완료 보증금을 옹호했습니다. 그 채권 요건은 H.B. 19-95이지만 하원 층에 대한 최종 수정안은 이 법안에서 요구 사항을 제거했습니다. 하원 소수 대리인들은 이 법안에 반대했습니다. 이 법안에서 완성 보증금 요건이 제거된 이유는 아직 밝혀지지 않았지만 한 가지는 분명합니다. 오직 IPI만이 혜택을 받았습니다. 프로젝트 5년이 지났지만 카지노 건설은 아직 완료되지 않았습니다.

5. IPI와 행정부가 카지노 라이센스 계약을 8회 수정하고 집계했을 때. 수정안에는 공사 기한에 대한 여러 연장이 포함되어 있으며 지연이나 손상에 대한 벌금은 부과되지 않았습니다. 모든 수정안은 IPI에 유리했습니다.

6. IPI가 여러 차례에 걸쳐 Garapan 석호를 오염시킨 BECQ에 의해 $ 210,000의 벌금을 물었을 때. 우리의 환경과 공중 보건에 대한 이러한 심각한 범죄는 완전히 비양심적이며 완전히 책임을 회피하게 된 사례가 되었습니다.

7. IPI가 카지노 앞 공공 도로의 ​​절반을 막았을 때, 그 거리와 인접한 거리를 따라 많은 중소기업이 재정적으로 타격을 입었습니다. 이 소기업들은 여러 번 불만을 토로했으며 우리 중 소수만이 그 말을 들은 것 같습니다. 일부는 마침내 고소했습니다.

8. 카지노의 현지 직원이 동일한 업무와 책임을 가진 중국 직원보다 낮은 시급을 받고 있다고 불평했을 때. 현지 직원들에 따르면 그들은 중국어를 하지 못해서 임금을 적게 받았다고 합니다. 우리는 그들이 미국 노동부 산하의 연방 임금위원회에 불만을 제기하고 현지 노동부에 불만을 제기하도록 권장했습니다.

9. 약속된 봉급을 받지 못하고 비참한 주거 환경에서 살고 있는 외국인 건설 노동자들의 시위와 파업이 있었지만 대부분의 노동자들은 약속된 완전한 보상을 받지 못한 채 북마리아나를 떠났고 우리 중 일부는 그들을 만나 주민들과 비영리 단체에서 기부한 위로물품을 전달하기도 했습니다.

10. 건설 노동자가 현장에서 사망하고 IPI의 건설 현장에서 여러 번의 OSHA 위반이 발견되어 수십 건의 부상을 입혔습니다.


[작성자 : JAY KIM ]