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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 26, 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---The Solomon Islands government has defended its decision to close down all commercial casino-related operations in the country effective April 7, 1999.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Joses Sanga says although the closure will cost the government $SI 600,000 ($US 128,000) annually in revenue, the social cost of gambling in the Solomon Islands is heavier on some families, particularly in the capital, Honiara.

Sanga says there are broken families and families without food because the breadwinner empties his pay package at the casinos.

Some children, he says, go to school in the mornings without breakfast as a result of their fathers' addiction to the casinos.

"$SI 600,000 is nothing when you compare it with the social cost," he adds

Sanga says the government anticipates that state lotteries and games of chances for charitable purposes, which will be unaffected by the closure, will provide employment for some of the 500 employees who will lose their jobs when the decision is implemented next year.

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