[Samoa Observer] Samoa Prime Minister Calls Casinos An ‘Experiment’
Tuilaepa: If casinos don’t work as expected they will be closed
APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, March 10, 2013) – Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has told the international media that the Government’s proposed casinos are an “experiment.”
“If the casino does not produce the desired result then we [would] just fold [them] up,” he told TVNZ.
The Prime Minister was asked to comment on concerns about the negative impact of the casinos, voiced by members of the community, including the churches.
Reverend Maauga Motu, Secretary of the National Council of Churches says the casinos will bring social problems to the country.
But Tuilaepa disagrees.
He said the casinos would create much-needed employment for residents of villages, which have been chosen for the projects.
At the moment, these villages include Mulifanua and Mulivai Safata.
Further, the Prime Minister said the casinos would give tourists one more reason to choose Samoa as a destination. He said there is a need to create more activities for tourists to attract them and the casino is part of that.
Tuilaepa is also excited about the possibility of direct flights from China to Samoa, which are being proposed by the Exhibition Tourism Group (ETG) as part of their license conditions.
ETG representativesare expected in Samoa to sign the papers. The controversial move to give out two casino licences has split the country, with fears financial profit will bring increased crime.
The Samoan government believes casinos could turn its economy around and the Gambling Control Authority says the benefits are numerous in terms of employment for local people.
The Chengdu Exhibition and Tourism Group was awarded one casino licence while the other went to local company, Aggie Grey’s Reef Resort.
The Chengdu group intends to build a 500-room resort, complete with golf course and a number of shops, and intends to bring in Chinese tourists on charter flights.
The company is to get tax breaks and entry requirements for Chinese tourists are likely to be relaxed.
“I imagine that the Samoan government and the Chinese government will come to some kind of reciprocal arrangement,” casino consultant Robbie Kearney said.
TVNZ understands the group will pay the government a licence fee of US$150,000 (T$330,000) as well as 15 per cent of its net gaming revenue.
Legally only foreign passport holders staying in hotels can gamble, but locals doubt that will work, with one telling ONE News: “There will be ways the locals will find to get into the casino and that is where the problem will arise.”
However, Mr.Kearney said they will be doing spot checks around the casino and the government has gained local support by promising to put some of the casino revenue into sport.
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