International edition
June 14, 2021

The National Gaming Control Board signed a deal with Paga Hill for a $43M casino on May 28

Papua New Guinea plans to build first casino amid concerns over regulator's role

Papua New Guinea plans to build first casino amid concerns over regulator's role
The agreement was signed by Paga Hill Development Corporation and the National Gaming Control Board (NGCB), drawing immediate condemnation from Transparency International.
New Guinea | 06/08/2021

Transparency advocates and experts claimed that the country’s regulator has undermined its independence with the deal to build a casino in Port Moresby. In addition, they assure it could worsen social problems.

Plans to build Papua New Guinea’s first casino in Port Moresby provoked criticism from transparency advocates and experts.

Experts claimed that the country doesn’t have laws, penalties, governance, education, or welfare capacity to deal with problems the casino may bring. In addition, they assure it could worsen social problems.

The agreement to build the US$43m venue was signed on 28 May by Paga Hill Development Corporation and the National Gaming Control Board (NGCB), drawing immediate condemnation from Transparency International, The Guardian reports.

Transparency International PNG board chair Peter Aitsi stated: “They (the NGCB) are the referee responsible for applying the rules of the game. The global experience with casinos suggests an increased likelihood of money laundering and undue political influence where the regulator is weak or is compromised.”

George Hallit, Paga Hill’s chief operating officer, defended the plans, saying the casino would create thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. He also argued that the casino, which will include a hotel, shopping malls, and cinemas, would attract tourists, arguing that only one-third of visits to PNG were currently tourism-related."

Paul Barker, executive director of the independent think tank the Institute of National Affairs, said that Papua New Guinea did not have the welfare or legal infrastructure to deal with the problems that often accompany gambling.

“Australia, has some of the toughest rules and capacity to manage their gambling industry, and they also have strong education and social welfare systems. PNG certainly doesn’t have the laws, penalties, governance, education, or welfare capacity that Australia has, and it has serious law and order problems already. It certainly shouldn’t want to worsen the situation and having a major casino will certainly worsen the situation."

"PNG also has a serious problem, where the regulatory body, the NGCB, is also seeking to be an investor in gaming ventures, including the proposed casino. This is wholly improper,” Barker concluded.

He also noted that casinos are often used for money laundering and argued that given widespread allegations of poor governance and corruption in Papua New Guinea there was “no way that the country can afford to take on this extra burden of permitting casino activities.”

Clemence Kanau, General Secretary of the PNG Trade Union Congress noted in an earlier statement: "the regulator had been at the forefront to ensure compliance on regulations and requirements” adding that it was also planning to “introduce lottery, bingo, online betting, and other gaming activities to raise revenue and attract economic activities, employment, and other opportunities."

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