PNG PARLIAMENT OKS SOMARE BILL TO INTRODUCE GAMBLING

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, May 2) – The Papua New Guinea parliament yesterday passed a gaming law introducing casinos and internet gambling into PNG.

The Gaming Control Bill 2007, sponsored by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, is expected spark debate and controversy among anti-gambling lobby groups led by churches and women’s groups.

But Sir Michael, before Parliament voted 61-0 to pass the Bill, said the new Act contained provisions to keep out criminal exploitation and impose strict entry requirements on Papua New Guineans trying to enter casinos – in a bid to discourage them from gambling.

"They (women’s groups and churches) should rest assured, however, that because of very strict entry requirements to casinos, for instance the proposed hefty refundable entry fee, most people frequenting gaming machine lounges will not be able to gamble at casinos," Sir Michael said.

Community Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu, Treasurer Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Henganofi MP Dr Banare Bun and Deputy Opposition Leader Byron Chan were among eight MPs who walked out of the chamber before Parliament voted.

With the new Act now in effect, each province can only be issued one casino licence for a 10-year period from the date of issuance. A casino operator will also be required to pay a duty at 20 per cent of the monthly taxable gross profit, on top of a community benefit gaming levy of 5 per cent of the monthly taxable gross profit.

The new law now opens the way for the construction of a Korean consortium funded $US35 million (K110 million) five-star hotel containing a casino in Port Moresby.

On internet gambling, popularly known as "online gaming", Sir Michael said there was potential for PNG-based foreign companies to offer online gaming services to overseas clients.

"Papua New Guinea can earn income in taxing these forms of gambling without being affected by the social ills gambling brings to the local population," he said.

Mega prize lotteries also had a market in the country with Sir Michael picking out PNG-based expatriates as potential customers.

Sir Michael said while the economic benefits of casinos and online gambling were immense, the new law would ensure integrity and probity of the gaming industry.

The new law merges the Gaming Act, the Gaming Machine Act and the Bookmaking Act and caters for new forms of gambling such as online gambling, overseas-based lotteries and casinos.

The State had unsuccessful attempted to shutdown illegal slot and horse race gaming machines in recent years.

This, Sir Michael said, was another reason for the new law, adding the National Gaming Board lacked specific powers under the Gaming Machine Act to deal with rogue operators.

Under the new law, a chief executive officer would be appointed to head the National Gaming Control Board and the board would take on the task of regulator of the gaming industry.

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