Saturday, June 9, 2012

PNG High Rollin'

A report from Reef Casino last year referenced their strategy to promote the PNG high roller market. Reef also reported a higher than theoretical win rate from its high roller business. The idea of a high roller market from PNG may seem incongruous but perhaps an incident at Star Casino in Sydney last year provides some insight.

A gentleman from PNG was asked to leave the high roller area for allegedly being intoxicated and requesting sex from a blackjack dealer. It was alleged that the casino then allowed him back in when it was revealed he had $800,000 in a gambling account at the casino. The gentleman concerned was Belden Namah who happens to be Deputy Prime Minister of PNG.

Corruption in PNG is endemic and Namah has come in for his share of allegations. No suggestion is made of anything improper at Reef Casino. The casino is critical tourism infrastructure and has attracted favourable comment here as a well run business. Neither does it suggest that the PNG high roller business is entirely related to political corruption with extremes of unequal wealth being created by resources development.

However, perhaps there should be some circumspection around the close links between Cairns and PNG. Given those links there is a history of Cairns being associated with corruption allegations in PNG, including property deals by Sir Michael Somare and other politicians. There has also been a suggestion of bribes channeled into PNG from Singapore via the Cairns branch of an Australian bank.

In this context the report yesterday of customs cuts including Cairns and T.I. is of related interest. Business groups have been calling for visa requiremnents for PNG to be relaxed. Also yesterday there is a report of increased tourism links.

PNG is a key strategic component for diversification of the Cairns economy and with an election this month political stability in PNG is very much in our interest.


Update: Interesting what comes through in a timely way on a Sunday morning with this being posted from Sean Dorney, the veteran ABC correspondent in Port Moresby on visa policy, with a promise from Julie Bishop to relax standards. There is also a recent speech from Dorney on corruption and journalism.

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