26 Jul 2010

Samoa NGOs call sensitive casino for Savai'i a joke

3:19 pm on 26 July 2010

Samoa's umbrella organisation for non-government groups, SUNGO, is casting doubt on a Hawaiian based company's plans for a sensitive casino development on the island of Savai'i.

South Pacific Development Group is hoping to be granted a casino licence if a controversial bill allowing gambling in Samoa is passed into law.

The land acquisition company is searching for a partner to help develop a 5 star hotel, golf course and cultural centre and its head, Jesse James, says it also now has a responsible, boutique-style casino development in mind.

But SUNGO's president, Vaasilifiti Moelagi Jackson, says the social consequences will be huge.

"That's a real joke. What he's saying is a real joke. Casino is not in our culture. The tourists who are coming to Samoa are those who are interested in the people and the environment not casino playing. It's going to really hurt the people. You know there will be a lot of break-ups in families and loss of property."

Vaasilifiti Moelagi Jackson says she's been taking the anti-gambling message into homes, villages and churches to prepare Samoans for the bills impact which she is resigned to seeing passed.