COOK ISLANDS CHAMBER AND TOURISM GROUPS VOTE AGAINST CASINO

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By Jason Brown

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (July 4, 2000 – Cook Islands News)---Members of two more organizations last night joined traditional and church leaders in opposing the proposed casino at the Hilton Vaimaanga Hotel project.

Tourism Industry Council members in a survey of accommodators, tour operators and others were 86% against a casino, the chamber heard. Only 14% were for it.

Chamber members themselves voted 16 to 0 against the casino. Seven members abstained.

This followed lively debate over whether to hold a vote or not, after developers failed to show.

"Stop pussy footing around!" motelier Te Tika Mataiapo Dorice Reid told the meeting. While also president of the Koutu Nui, Reid, speaking as a chamber member, said, "My mind is made up!" Her motion was supported by Theresa Manarangi Trott and Malcolm Laxton Blinkhorn.

DEVELOPERS

"I don’t really want to hear the other side," said one abstainer, motelier Peter Heays. "But if we take a position tonight government may accuse us of not listening to the other side."

Members agreed to a vote after motelier Elliot Smith said it would reflect members’ feelings on the night, which may change when casino developers make their case on Tuesday, July 18, 2000.

Visiting Hamilton mayor and Cook Island Steel shareholder Russell Rimmington said it was "bizarre" that his city had to spend half a million fighting "powerful" casino operators.

President Don Beer, Jr. said the chamber body is yet to take an "official" position on the casino issue.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online. 

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