20 Aug 2012

Churches oppose Tahiti casino plan

1:27 pm on 20 August 2012

Churches in French Polynesia have spoken out against suggestions that the Sofitel Maeva Beach Hotel, which is due to close in November, be turned into a casino.

A Tahiti-based businessman, Franck Falletta, has offered to take over the loss-making hotel if he can turn it into a casino.

The President Oscar Temaru is opposed to the bid, saying occult forces are behind this and signalling he will move elsewhere should it ever open.

Church leaders have told the local press that they doubt a casino will benefit tourism, warning of negative outcomes for the poor.

Mr Falletta has already said not occult but divine forces are at play, adding that when he lost his mother and siblings during the Second World War, the Virgin Mary appeared and consoled him.

An assembly member of the ruling coalition, Tea Hirshon, is quoted as saying casinos won't mean more tourists, citing casino-free destinations, such as the Cook Islands and the Maldives.

She says with casinos, there is drinking and prostitution.