The proposal to construct Papua New Guinea’s first casino has generated a lot of criticism from local and international bodies. And one of the reasons for criticism is the social impact on the young population. The casino will be built in Port Moresby.
More so, considering that Paga Hill Development Corporation and the National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) have signed an agreement on the 28th of May 2021, one wonders if the outcry against the casino will have any effect now.
The proposed casino would cost USD 43 million. Many Papua New Guinea citizens don’t seem satisfied with the NGCB’s explanation of their casino project involvement.
The Backdrop of the Criticism Against Papua New Guinea Casino Project
Experts feel there wouldn’t be transparency in Papua New Guinea’s casino project since the country’s regulator has a stake in the project. According to some transparency advocates, the NGCB would not effectively monitor and regulate the activities of the casino since it’s a major stakeholder.
Peter Aitsi, Transparency International PNG board chairman, said NGCB as the referee with the onus of applying the rules, is not supposed to be running around as a player in the field too. Aitsi further added that from the global experience with casinos, there might be a likelihood of money laundering and various vices. Therefore if the NGCB is weak, it is unlikely that irregularities will be checked. Other reasons for the criticism include:
- Legal Infrastructure: Some critics believe that Papua New Guinea doesn’t have the legal infrastructure or welfare to handle gambling-related problems. This was reiterated by Paul Banker, the executive director of the Institute of National Affairs.
- Social Impact: According to Paul Banker, the existing slot machines have already had damning effects on hooked citizens. Banker added that some players are already indebted.
A statement issued by Father Giorgio Licini on behalf of the Catholic Church also condemned the construction of the casino. Father Licini added that the money could have been channeled into developing new recreational venues instead of building a casino.
The NGCB Refutes Critics
Considering the various criticisms from various quarters, the NGCB has defended the proposed casino construction. According to Clemence Kanau, the chairman of NGCB, the regulator will ensure compliance with regulations and other requirements.
Also, the chairman added that Papua New Guinea’s project would increase revenue and attract economic activities. Clemence concluded that this project would help lift the country’s economic woes.
In the same vein, George Hallit, the chief operating officer of Paga Hill, added that thousands of jobs would be created directly or indirectly. George further added that the casino project would include shopping malls, cinemas, and a hotel. He claims that the casino would attract more tourist activities. George hopes that the project would help the country tap into the tourism industry like China and Las Vegas.
Overview of Papua New Guinea Land-based Casino Industry
Gambling is pretty much popular in PNG. However, casinos are not a new phenomenon for Papua New Guinea, as it was successfully legalized in 2007 by the PNG government. Prime Minister Michael Somare, through various deliberations, legalized sports betting, online and land-based casinos.
The casino project proposed to be sited in Port Moresby is the first land-based casino in Papua New Guinea since gambling was legalized in the country. No wonder the NCGB is aiming to see that one is constructed. Most punters visit neighboring Australia to gamble at land-based casinos.
The Online Gambling Market in Papua New Guinea
Unlike the land-based casinos in PNG, the online industry had kick-off its operations long ago. Not to mention, there are several online casinos that accept PNG players. Since online gambling is legal, safe payment methods like PayPal, Visa, Mastercard are available on most casino gambling platforms operating in PNG.
Also, table games like roulette, blackjack, poker, etc., are played more often by PNG punters. Other games offered by PNG’s online casinos are:
Furthermore, most online casinos in PNG operate within the jurisdiction. Aside from that, you can also find foreign-based online casinos that accept PNG players to their platforms.
The Final Resolution
Based on the stiff criticism faced by the NGCB’s involvement in the new project, it would be fair if PNG’s government can ensure concrete welfare and legal framework to help handle gambling-related issues. No doubt, land-based gambling comes with a lot of challenges, especially money laundering.
Also, to pacify other sections of the society, more recreational centers can be constructed to engage the PNG’s younger citizens. Finally, considering the damage done by the pandemic, the PNG’s newly constructed casino will increase the country’s revenue too. Summing up, the NCGB must sit up to its responsibility of regulating and monitoring the casino’s activities. Besides, the online gambling industry in PNG seems to be picking up gradually.