Tonga Denies Claims By U.S. Company That It Was Granted Casino License

Prime Minister: Gambling is illegal in Tonga, any casino application would be futile

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 2, 2017) – Tonga's Government this evening has refuted claims that it issued a casino license to a US company called Red Warrior Entertainment LLC.

Red Warrior CEO Ronald Pate announced  two days ago that Red Warrior had been granted "an exclusive National Master Gaming License" which was " the first of its kind issued from Tonga" to operate a casino in Tonga. He quoted a cabinet decision by number "His Majesty's Cabinet decision No. 1194 on the 4th of November 2016" and also claimed to have received a formal letter and proclamation from the Minister of Customs dated 24 November 2016 and a completed Licence agreement on 9 January 2017.

But in a statement today the Prime Minister's Office denied the claim and stated that gambling is prohibited in Tonga by law, "and therefore any intention from Red Warrior Entertainment or any Casino Company to apply for a gaming license would be futile."

The Prime Minister's Office stated that Red Warrior is a "foreign team counterpart" of a foreign investment company  called Amira-Unison-Gatti LLP. In November last year Cabinet received a proposal for a tourism facility and investment called "Tavake Tamafua Investment Project" from Amira-Unison-Gatti for an investment covering three projects: the Pearl Airport Hotel & Shopping Mall, the Frangipani Luxevillas and the Aria Tourism Entertainment Gaming Resort. 

The PMO stated that while the Cabinet initially, on November 4, supported the project, after further consideration the Cabinet on November 11 supported only the first two projects, but not the proposal for a Aria Tourism Entertainment Gaming Resort.

"The Cabinet further directed that the full plan for the Pearl Airport Hotel and Shopping Mall and the Frangipani Luxevillas are to be submitted for final consideration and approval."

Casinos are forbidden under Tonga's Criminal Offences Act 1926 which prohibits gambling. 

The Prime Minister's Office added that "any proposal that will be deemed to disrupt the peace and harmony of the society will be given careful scrutiny and consideration."

However, the press statement did not reveal the names of the project's local Tongan counterparts.

Concerns

Meanwhile, public opinion in Tonga is likely to reject any attempt to change the law regarding gambling.

Rev. Tevita Haukinima, treasurer of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, told Matangi Tonga today that he did not believe that the stories about establishing a casino in Tonga were true.

"We at the FWC don't believe in casinos and dealing cards. This is what the church believes and what Christians believe as well as our pastors and people of the church... It might bring about problems in society that will affect the people.

"We all know of casinos overseas and the difficulties it brings and I think the same thing would happen in Tonga."

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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