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Casino controversy brewing in Samoa

Published: 7:23PM Thursday March 07, 2013 Source: ONE News

A large Chinese consortium is due in Samoa in the next few days to sign up the country's first international casino.

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 Greys.

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.

ONE News understands the group will pay the government a licence fee of $US150,000 as well as 15% of its net gaming revenue.

But Reverend Maauga Motu from the Council of Churches says the move will bring social problems to the country.

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, 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.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said it is an experiment and that "if the casino does not produce the desired result then we just fold up".

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