The figure they had with them—a middle-aged man, also Chinese, naked but for his underwear—was unresponsive, and had clearly suffered severe trauma. At a temporary storefront, the company, Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd., was somehow handling more than $2 billion a month in VIP bets.
As an orderly lifted him onto a gurney, the four men indicated in broken English that he had fallen from a hotel-room balcony. But the place has seemed less and less like America since 2014, when a Chinese casino operator arrived and—with near-total impunity—turned Saipan into a back door to the U. And at the construction site, it was building a gargantuan casino with a crew of hundreds of Chinese, scores of them working illegally on tourist visas.
Rohringer began to evaluate the man under the ER’s harsh fluorescent lights. So many laborers were getting hurt that Rohringer’s colleagues began keeping an unofficial spreadsheet, separate from standard hospital records: a grim catalog of broken bones, lacerations, puncture wounds, dislocated limbs, and eyes penetrated by flying metal.
His skin was pallid and turning blue, and it was obvious that he could not be revived. The dead man Rohringer saw was not, of course, a tourist who’d stumbled over a railing—he was a builder named Hu Yuanyou, and he’d plummeted from a scaffold.
One of the men who’d arrived with the body started to mime chest compressions: Was there really nothing to be done? His colleagues hadn’t called 911; instead, they’d pulled the work clothes off his broken body in a clumsy attempt to obscure his identity.
Rohringer pronounced the man dead just before 8 a.m. Already, the medical staff suspected that the story of his fall was a lie. The less that outsiders learned about the casino, the better.
The hospital had been inundated with patients from a construction site a few blocks away on this speck of rock among the Northern Mariana Islands, in the deepest part of the Pacific. Saipan (population 48,000) is nevertheless American soil, with U. Hu died building what’s become, on paper, the most successful gambling operation in history.
To get a sense of Saipan’s isolation from the Lower 48, imagine flying from Denver to Honolulu. In the first half of 2017, table for table, Imperial Pacific turned over nearly six times more cash than the fanciest gaming facilities in Macau, which themselves dwarf the activity in Las Vegas.
And that was before Imperial Pacific opened its lavish megacasino in July. Eight casino executives and analysts interviewed for this story, all with extensive experience of the Asian gaming trade, said they saw no way such volumes could be generated legitimately.
Given Macau’s status as a hub for industrial-scale money laundering, the Saipan figures have left gaming veterans astonished that they could be generated on U. Asked if there could be a benign explanation for such instantaneous success at a casino more than three hours’ flight from any major city, on a drowsy island where the best hotel is a 1970s-era Hyatt, one of the executives burst out laughing.
Per capita, there’s almost certainly more Chinese money moving through Saipan than anywhere else in the world.
The unprecedented flow of capital has allowed Imperial Pacific to operate in ways that would be unthinkable within the 50 states.