Papua New Guinea Divided Over Construction Plans for the Country’s First Casino

Paga Hill Development Corporation and Papua New Guinea’s National Gaming Control Board have planned to build the first $43 million casino in the country. This may plant the seeds for a new industry in the Papua New Guinea but might bring some problems as well. Supporters have listed the opportunities while skeptics have voiced their concerns.

Gambling as a Means to Revitalize PNG Economy

Paga Hill’s COO George Hallit pointed to the positives. According to him, there is weak tourism in the country. The casino in Port Moresby is planned to have an annex hotel, cinema, and shopping center and will therefore not only boost tourism but open many jobs as well. Hallit pointed to statistics that show Chinese tourists tend to visit casinos a lot and gave Las Vegas as an example where 90% of the Chinese tourists in the United States of America go.

Clemence Kanau, chairman of the National Gaming Control Board tried to calm people’s concerns by promising all needed regulations will be taken in mind. Kanau, like Hallit and the other supporters of the casino, mentioned the need to revitalize the economy, especially after the COVID-19 damage. The chairman is sure that a variety of gambling opportunities, such as lotteries, online betting and bingo will benefit the country as a whole.

Interviewers from The Guardian reached out to National Gaming Control Board for further comment but are still to receive a response.

Gambling May Have a Devastating Social Impact on PNG

Peter Aitsi, a member of the Transparency International, pointed out that the National Gaming Control Board has one function: to regulate games. Aitsi reminds that an unbiased arbiter shouldn’t participate in the industry, otherwise there’s an increased risk of political influence being forced and money laundering schemes taking place.

Executive director at the Institute of National Affairs Paul Barker shares Aitsi’s concerns for a regulative organ participating in the industry, but he also has other issues in mind. According to him, gambling can have an extremely negative impact on the PNG society. Barker reminded that the introduction of slot machines already achieved this negative effect. Numerous people got addicted and were left destitute because of their lack of moderation.

Barker gave Australia as an example, saying that despite gambling being heavily regulated there and Australian people having a much higher level of education and welfare, the country sports one of the worst levels of gambling addiction. Barker fears that casinos will worsen things in PNG as the aforementioned slot machines have already had a negative effect. Combined with the lack of established gambling laws and regulations, a casino may result in some serious social damage that outweighs the positives mentioned by Hallit.

Father Giorgio Licini, representing PNG’s Catholic Bishops Conference is heartbroken at the money that is being spent for the enjoyment of the rich. Licini feels outraged and emphasized the terrible conditions of the countryside. Licini feels that the same money will be better spent on facilities and opportunities for the kids.

Both sides have presented some valid points for and against the construction of the casino in Port Moresby. While it is true some people may become addicted, one cannot overlook the monetary advantages of the gambling industry. Seeking those very opportunities, Ukraine recently legalized gambling after a 10-year ban and got immediate interest.

We have yet to see how the situation in Papua New Guinea will unfold and what will gambling bring.