Samoa casino: Curse or blessing?

The National Council of Churches (NCC) is refusing to budge over the Government’s plan to legalise casinos and gambling in Samoa – despite the fact that the licenses have already been issued.

While the Chairman of the NCC, Deacon Kasiano Le’aupepe was not immediately available for a comment yesterday, Reverend Maauga Motu, General secretary of the NCC told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that “less fortunate Samoans” are likely to be hardest hit by the development of casinos.

"That's always the end result of playing games like this at the casino, they will always lose," he said. "Our concern is that the social life of the people will be spoilt."

Samoa will soon have its first casino after two licences were granted by the Gambling Control Authority, last week. One license has been given to a Chinese company called Exhibition and Tourism Group (ETG). They have their head office in Chengdu, China.

The other license has been handed to Aggie Grey’s Beach Resort at Mulifanua. Aggie’shas contracted a casino management company, APG, who operate from Macau, to manage and supervisethe operation.

The Government’s decision has inspired the New Zealand Problem Gambling Foundation to urge Samoa to start a similar service like them. The Manager of Mapu Maia, Pesio Ah-Hone Siitia, warned about problem gamblers in Samoa - whether they be tourists or locals holding foreign passports.

“We’ve seen people losing everything, people losing their homes, their relationships and we’ve seen people actually losing their businesses,” she said. “And for a nation or for a community like Samoa, who is a developing nation, and who are solely reliant on low wages and also remittances from overseas, we can definitely see that the impact of problem gambling will be very high.”

The leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II agrees. Speaking during a press conference yesterday, he said he “feels sorry for my beautiful Samoa.”

“There is nothing we can do now,” he pointed out.“Casinos will soon be a reality in our country but we (Tautua) want to make known that there is no room for casinos in our books, not now, not ever.”

Palusalue said he hopes Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi knows what he’s doing.

“We believe that these casinos will bring in more social problems rather than money.

“Yes Samoa might make some money, but at what price? Obviously the government is willing to sacrifice the traditions, culture and the well being of our people for the sake of money.”

Palusalue pleaded with the Casino operators to be vigilant in their work in order to ensure the laws are upheld.


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