Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Casino on Easter Island?

Easter Island Casino Plan Raises Fear of Cultural Erosion
Published: April 1, 2006
HANGA ROA, Easter Island — This is, as the saying here goes, "the most insular of islands," the place on earth farthest from any other place on earth. Most people here seem to like it that way, which is why a new plan to build a casino on this speck in the South Pacific has created an uproar among the island's 3,800 residents.

The above article was published in the New York Times and describes a situation where Pedro Riraroko, a Rapanui businessman and landowner whose interests include a hotel and travel agency, has been lobbying on the Chilean mainland to get the go-ahead for this project – along with his Chilean partners who already own a casino.

So on one side, there’s Hanga Roa’s mayor’s position:

"I welcome any project that would develop Rapa Nui society, and this is one that would create 150 jobs that I don't have today," he said in an interview. "Plus, a chunk of the profits and sales would stay here on the island and give me more money to build roads and maybe afford to buy a dialysis unit for the hospital."

And on the other:

"A casino would mean the instantaneous destruction of this island as we know it, in which our livelihood is based on a kind of cultural tourism found nowhere else in the world," said Mario Tuki, a fisherman and schoolteacher who is a member of a council of elders. "If people want to gamble, let them go somewhere else, like Las Vegas or Monaco."

Of course, pushing this issue toward further complication is the fact that on a per capita basis, "More is spent in Rapa Nui than in any municipality in Chile," according to Claudio Agurto, a Chilean Interior Ministry official, in an interview with the writer of the article.

Any further information or articles (that are not re-edits of the above New York Times article) would be greatly appreciated. The idea of building a casino on Rapa Nui has been in the news for a few years, and to the best of this blogger’s knowledge, it’s still that – just an idea.

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