Gambling is illegal in the small Micronesian archipelago state of Tonga, so the very idea of building a casino there would seem to be an outside bet at best. The Tonga Criminal Offences Act 1926 prohibits gambling and casinos are forbidden.
But this hasn’t stopped the Tavake Tamafua Company, along with American investors Red Warrior Entertainment, from hoping to build a $400 million luxury casino complex to include a shopping mall, luxury villas and an airport resort.
In November 2016, the foreign investment company Amira-Union-Gatti LLP first submitted a proposal to the Tongan government for the “Tavake Tamafua Investment Project” that included the “Aria Tourism Entertainment Gaming Resort.”
Following this, Red Warrior Entertainment announced that the Tongan government had issued an “exclusive national master gaming license” for the project that covered Class I, II and III gaming. Class III gaming is more commonly known as casino gaming.
This is a first for Tonga, and not everyone was happy with it. The 177 islands, with a population around 103,00, have a very traditionally religious society that frowns upon any gaming.
Statement from Prime Minister that gambling is not on the cards
In January this year, the Prime Minister’s Office of the Tongan government issued a statement to say that they would not allow casino gaming or gambling and that the licence was merely for the hotel and airport facility. The Prime Minister’s Office clarified that the
Cabinet had initially, on November 4th 2016, supported the proposal, but on 11th November decided to only support the hotel and airport.
The Prime Minister’s Office also remarked that they would have to give careful scrutiny to any project that may disrupt the peace and harmony of the society.
Seemingly ignoring all setbacks, Tavake Tamafua has since reported that they were on the verge of fulfilling requirements to move on to the next step. The company reports that finance minister Tevita Lavemaau is supportive of the project and should grant the company an exclusive right under conditions to build in Tonga in the next couple of years and that the company is currently looking for a compromise to get development approval. This includes an exclusion policy for any Tongan passport holders, preventing them from entering the casino complex. According to the company, the project is all about stimulating Tonga’s economy.
Nearly half a billion dollars to be invested
Tavake Tamafua’s Havea Gatti said the conditions for the project included more than $450 million dollars to invest in infrastructure. The project also means a labour investment for Tonga, with over 80% of the labour associated with the project has to be sourced from Tonga’s population.
The latest twist in this tale came on April 3rd, when Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva declared very simply and emphatically that
there would be no room for casinos in Tonga and that his government would not permit any casino to be built.
But we feel that the story will run and run, with both sides determined to get their way. And it may take years until we know for sure whether there will be a new casino in Tonga. You don’t have to wait to enjoy your casino experience though, simply download our app for a cool range of games. Interested in Lucky Nugget Casino’s coverage of daily events? Why not bookmark our blog!