Samoa is in the process of opening up bidding for a casino license in the tiny island nation after withdrawing a license issued to a Chinese tourism group after it was determined that the group was facing allegations of corruption.
The license was initially issued to China’s Exhibitions Tourism Group (ETG), which plane to build a 500-room hotel and casino in the country. But all that turned upside its head after Chinese media reports said that the company’s chairman, Deng Hong, and his chief executive, are currently being investigated by authorities over accusations of corruption stemming from previous land deals. Hong has been kept in custody by Communist Party anti-corruption officials since March, delaying any sort of progress on the development of the supposed tourist destination.
With the issue still unresolved, the Samoan government officially withdrew the license earlier this month, leading to discussions that could end up reopening the license for bidding to any foreign operator that might be interested in building a casino in a country that’s heavily reliant on foreign money to come to its shores.
Back in 2010, the government passed a law to allow two casinos to be built and developed in the country in an attempt to infuse some much-needed revenue to a country that has faced one natural disaster after another. One of the licenses was awarded to Samoan hotel firm Aggie Grey’s with the other being given to the ETG. But with the license for the Chinese company being withdrawn by the government, the latter is now deliberating on how to move forward on what to do with the vacated casino license.
One option, according to Samoa Gambling Control Authority chief executive Robbie Kearney, is to continue with just one license. The other is to go back to the casino market to determine whether another interest company would be willing to take up the license vacated by the ETG.
Either way, the Samoan government needs to make a decision quickly, a sentiment echoed by Kearney when he told Reuters that “we may want to go back to market straight away.”