G'day punters, casino and media millionaires and billionaires, politicians and one and all. This week we take you a bit further afield than Australian waters. We paddle across to Fiji where talk of the counties first ever casino project is all the rage. Media Man and Gambling911 with this Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka body splashing report...
Fiji's notorious military government called for keen expressions of interest in developing and operating the embattled Pacific nation's first casino.
Tourism Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum advised a casino would help Fiji attract more visitors from the emerging markets of China, India and from Europe, in addition to building on the potentially lucrative US market.
The invitation to gaming companies will be a strong test for international investor confidence in the nation, where the economy has faltered since a military coup in 2006 led by current Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.
Sayed-Khaiyum said there were very obvious economic benefits from a casino development, which could create jobs of course, and also help raise additional revenue for the government.
He would not give a timeline for the casino at this time, saying Fiji was looking for reputable international gaming operators to develop a casino that would increase leisure activities in the country.
"At the same time we do not want to harm Fiji's tourism brand, which the government and the people of Fiji have invested so much in," Sayed-Khaiyum said in a statement to the press.
He said laws would be put in place to minimise possible negative social impact from the casino, citing Malaysia and Singapore as countries where such protective mechanisms had been very successfully installed. He did not mention the Australian experience and productivity commission findings into the gambling business, which are questionable in nature we have learned in our own probe over the past months.
Tourism is Fiji's major export earner following a decline in its former economic bread and butter, the sugar industry.
More than 540,000 international visitors, 65% of them from "downunder" in Australia and "Kiwi Land" New Zealand, flocked to the the island nation's white sandy beaches last year, according to official data.
The World Bank this month said Fiji's economy was expected to grow 0.5-1.0% in 2010, only partially recovering from a 3.0% contraction last year.
It said Fiji's public debt, including state-owned enterprises, was about 67% of gross domestic product and government revenues this year were were likely to fall below budget forecasts.
The non-profit organisation International Budget Partnership this week ranked Fiji bottom in a survey of budget transparency covering 94 countries, saying publicly-available information on government accounts was inadequate.
Media Man's bodyguards and Fiji cultural experts Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. Adam Yarad and John "Vucan" Seru aka "The Fijian Warrior" are not commenting on the proposed casino development at this time, but we will advise if the situation changes. Ni Sa Moce (Goodbye in Fijian).
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Readers... er, punters, do you think Fiji should get a land based casino, or are online casinos enough to service our native friends? Tell us in the forum. If you have a bet, please bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.
*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911
*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming and offer political commentary and analysis.
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