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An American multimillionaire has won the development contract to build a massive land based casino on Fiji's Denarau Island, one of the nations prime tourist destinations for New Zealanders.
Military ruler Voreqe Bainimarama has over-ruled long standing chiefly and church objections to announce that Larry Claunch, who describes himself as an investor, will get an exclusive license to build a casino on the island that will be home to at least 500 slot machines and 54 tables, and they home - lots of happy punters and entertainment lovers.
The well-to-do entrepreneur will also be permitted to construct a smaller casino in Suva.
The regime advertised internationally for expressions of interest earlier this year. New Zealand's well known casino group, SkyCity, was in the mix of those interested.
The license will be held by Claunch's One Hundred Sands Ltd, which will operate the casino with the Snoqualmie Tribe from Washington state and Seventh Generation LLC, a Native American company.
The impressive deal includes a US$290 million ($378 million) five star, 190-room resort on the manmade Denarau Island, which already has several hotels on it and timeshares.
Bainimarama said they would protect the rights and interests of Fijian people. A casino "provides a malleable fusion between the Western ideals of casino gaming with the strong cultural virtues of tribal and community life", he said.
He also pointed out that the casino would provide 800 jobs.
"Fiji does not wish to imitate Las Vegas in the Pacific. Fiji already has a unique brand, one defined by its uniquely pristine environment, tranquillity and world class hospitality."
Claunch advised the casino was "a union of both economic and cultural endeavours".
He also owns Nukudrau, a 19 hectare island in Savusavu Bay.
Claunch is confident he will be able to continue to ride his wave of success into Fiji, despite the casino industry hitting a number of ripples in recent years - a flow on effect from the global economic downturn. Just don't tell Claunch it won't work - he's a winner, and needless to say- his house always wins. Might see you in Fiji.
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