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By Lewis Wolman

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 5, 2000 – Samoa News)---The war of words is on, but to what end is not clear.

The Fa‘aola Group has issued an open letter that essentially accuses Governor Tauese Sunia of lying to them. At the very least it accuses the governor of betraying his promise that he would sign a casino gambling bill ("no ifs, ands or buts") if the Fono passed one.

Governor Tauese, on the other hand, denies ever having made that statement.

More importantly, he is not backing down from a public statement he made last month that he will not sign a casino gambling bill even if one is approved by the Fono.

Nevertheless, the Fa‘aola Group has pledged to bring a slew of company officials and advisors to American Samoa this month to press its case in the legislature, where some of its initial support has evaporated.

The Group's recent open letter also expressed offense at the governor for apparently failing to return phone calls placed to him. The letter sent by Paulo, Tony, and J.R. Fa‘aola stated, "I say, Governor this Son of American Samoa deserves the respect afforded to any major head of corporation or at least the decency to answer my calls or return my calls as to not alleviate any misunderstandings." (sic)

But Tauese told the Samoa News that "I have never rejected or failed to return a phone call from the Fa‘aola Group."

The governor reminded Samoa News that his personal moral stance in regards to gambling has not changed since the 1996 gubernatorial campaign, when he said he was against it.

But, he said, as a public official he feels that he should set aside his moral point of view on this matter, and serve the people's will. He is satisfied that the people's will at this point is in opposition to casino gambling.

For whatever it is now worth, Tauese explained what he told the Fa‘aola Group in September. "I told them that casino gambling must first be legalized before the governor's authority is exercised. They will encounter opposition in the legislature, I said, and would find it hard to get the legislation passed, because this is a Christian community.

"Then I said that if the legislation were passed, they would have to overcome my skepticism, because I don't think the economics of the proposal are sound. In 1993 while attending a Lt. Governor's Conference in Las Vegas, I learned that gambling is a regressive form of taxation unless there is a lot of 'new' money coming in.

"In other words, if Fa‘aola Group cannot bring in a lot of outsiders to gamble, they will be just making local residents who gamble poorer."

The governor also told the Group that he would like to see them buy the Rainmaker Hotel.

"I told them then that if they did all those things (get public and legislative approval of the casino gambling legislation, convince me that they will be bringing in new money from gamblers from outside, buy the Rainmaker), I would support their proposal.

"But so long as the public's will is so clearly in opposition to casino gambling, I remain committed in opposition," the governor concluded.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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