20 Aug 2012

French Polynesian MP says casino idea unlikely to get enough support

7:23 pm on 20 August 2012

A French Polynesian MP says it's highly unlikely a local businessman's plan to turn a failing hotel into a casino will go ahead.

The Tahiti-based businessman, Franck Falletta, has offered to take over the Sofitel Maeva Beach Hotel if he can turn it into a casino.

The suggestion has upset churches in French Polynesia and the President Oscar Temaru, who says occult forces are behind the idea.

He has threatened to move elsewhere should it ever open.

A member of Mr Temaru's ruling coalition, Tea Hirshon, says it's unlikely a casino would help French Polynesia's floundering tourism industry.

"Other countries like Hawaii, the Cook Islands, Fiji, the Seychelles and the Maldives: all of these islands do not have casinos and they're doing well. We've had investors; the President was contacted for the Sofitel by some foreign investors who are interested, but are not mentioning casinos."

Ms Hirshon says a casino in Tahiti could encourage excessive drinking and prostitution.