Saipan Gets a Crash Course from US DOJ in Regulation
Currently, Saipan is experiencing a massive influx of VIP gamblers and the United States Department of Justice is keen to educate the Island nation on the best practices for combatting money laundering schemes associated with illicit gambling activity.
There is but one casino currently in operation on the island, a temporary one at that, and its gambling turnover is astounding for the size of its industry. Last week the numbers came in and a record $5.6 billion, yes billion with a ‘b’, was taken in by the lone casino in just January according to a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
As a member of the Northern Mariana Islands, this US commonwealth is under the watchful eye and judging hand the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which is now moving to exercise its power over Saipan’s legal practices. The exchange has already begun with a week-long training seminar taking place at the US Attorney’s Office. Material covered regulatory compliance and criminal investigatory proceedings for the gaming industry.
The DOJ brought in its team of heavy hitters from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGC). Commonwealth Casino Commission and Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission members were among those reportedly in attendance during the training session.
The Saipan Tribune quoted Guam and Northern Mariana Island District Attorney Alicia Limtiaco’s description of the training, which was reported to include, “everything pertaining to the Bank Secrecy Act, money laundering, financial crimes, national security, looking at overview of gaming regulations, organized criminal activity, and a host of other topics.” Interest in hosting the session had been made known months ago in correspondence between Limtiaco’s office and Governor Ralph Torres.
As recently as last November, Bloomberg News reported on the $1.6 billion Best Sunshine Live, the casino in question, had taken in during the month. With that number growing to $5.6 billion by January, the DOJ will be wasting no more time in expediting plans to step in on gaming oversight education for the Commonwealth and possible investigation.
The Best Sunshine Live took in more than double Macau’s reported earnings last month and that has turned a lot of attention toward the tiny island nation. The casino is owned and operated by Imperial Pacific International Holdings, which denies any such investigations undertaken by US authorities.
The former Vice President of the casino’s table games division claimed he’d been fired over educational sessions of his own, in which he’d instructed VIP gamblers on how best to avoid US financial reporting requirements. These claims were again met with fierce rejection on the part of Imperial Pacific International.
Last July Imperial Pacific had problems with a government crackdown on foreign workers, forcing more than 130 foreign staff from their positions. Commonwealth Casino Commission executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero told the Saipan Tribune, “Some of [the casino employees] we license, some of them we do not license who were affected. We’re trying to balance this gaming and non-gaming issue,” in response to the crackdown. In response the Imperial Pacific subsidiary Best Sunshine undertook advanced training schedules for remaining local workers to fill in the gaps. The casino has since hired exclusively among the local population and US citizens.
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