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Papa New Guinea – Papa New Guinea Gaming Board looking for casino operator for $43m project

By - 8 June 2021

The National Gaming Control board of Papa New Guinea will conduct a search for an international casino operator to run a $43m casino in partnership with itself and Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) for the first casino in the Oceanic country.

Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC) was awarded a gaming licence in late May in partnership with the National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) in realising a gaming and entertainment venue at Paga Hill Estate.

George Hallit, Paga Hill’s Chief Operating officer explained that the casino would include a hotel, retail and cinemas, and would target China’s middle classes, who will account for 25 per cent of all international tourism by 2030.

Paga Hill said: “Whilst PNG enjoys strong leisure tourism in adventure and nature segments, new attractions need to be developed to broaden this audience and increase visitation. Plans for Paga Hill Estate feature a range of tourism infrastructure that will together transform the visitor experience to PNG. A casino is a key element of this tourism strategy and is a proven means of attracting international visitation.”

A Paga Hill Estate casino would be targeted at foreign tourists, with mechanisms in place to protect the local population.

Paga Hill added: “Like most casinos around the world, the venue will include much more than gambling and establish a full-blown entertainment destination. Complementing Paga Hill Estate’s planned cultural centre, military museum, hotel and retail mall, the casino would attract new visitors to PNG, creating tourism and hospitality jobs, as well as support a range of spinoff and servicing businesses.”

Recognising the project’s tourism potential, as well as its potential contribution to the local economy, the Marape Government designated the area a Tourism Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in March 2020. In addition to a range of fiscal incentives designed to attract foreign investors to Papa New Guinea, Paga Hill Estate was provided an exclusive option to operate the only casino in Port Moresby. The National Gaming Control board (NGCB) supported this Government strategy and said it recognised Paga Hill Estate as the ideal location for Port Moresby’s only casino.

PHDC will now collaborate with NGCB to pre-select a casino operator for Paga Hill Estate, with a view to jointly operating the entertainment venue to attract new visitors to PNG, stimulate the local economy through hospitality jobs and business opportunities, as well as raise additional revenue for the Government to support key social and development agendas.

PHDC looks forward to further announcements relating this exciting collaboration.

The approval to develop Papua New Guinea’s first casino in Port Moresby have provoked concern that the Oceania country’s gaming regulator has contravened its independence by partnering in the project.

It has provoked criticism from Transparency International.

As quoted by The Guardian, Transparency International PNG board chair Peter Aitsi said: “They [the NGCB] are the referee responsible for applying the rules of the game; they should not be running around as a player on the field.”

Paul Barker, Executive Director of the independent thinktank the Institute of National Affairs, added: “Papa New Guinea also has a serious problem, where the regulatory body, the NGCB, is also seeking to be an investor in gaming ventures, including the proposed casino. This is wholly improper.”

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