Gaming | Saipan casino closes after typhoon, memo says

The island casino operated by Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd. that caters to Chinese high rollers on the remote U.S. territory of Saipan is closing down until further notice, according to a company memo.

Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific said it will temporarily shut down casino operations effective Friday, according to a Nov. 15 memo to employees written by Chairman Mark Brown, which was reviewed by Bloomberg News. The company needs to make repairs after it suffered millions of dollars in damage from a typhoon that struck the island in late October, according to the letter.

Brown did not respond to a message sent over WhatsApp, and calls to his mobile phone were unanswered. The company did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The shutdown is the latest blow for the casino operator, which has stumbled in its effort to turn the obscure island into a gambling hub to rival Macau. In August, the company reported a 51 percent decline in first-half revenue that sent earnings tumbling, while its uncollected debts from gamblers have piled up.

Shares of Imperial Pacific tumbled as much as 6.6 percent in Hong Kong Friday, bringing losses to about 46 percent this year. The benchmark Hang Sang index slipped as much as 0.9 percent Friday.

After Super Typhoon Yutu struck the island, the casino was put under limited operations from Nov. 2 and staffed only by essential employees, according to the letter. In the memo, the company said it hoped the tourism market in Saipan rebounds after the airport fully reopens so the casino can resume normal operations.

Saipan, more than 5,000 miles from the U.S. mainland, closed its airport after the typhoon struck. It is slated to fully reopen this month, according to local media. Daniela Wei, Matthew Campbell, Bloomberg

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