Plans for Fiji’s first casino are in limbo now that the developer holding the license has walked away from the troubled project after failing to get it off the ground.
Radio New Zealand says US-based One Hundred Sands has sold its interest to an unidentified party, confirming an earlier report from the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe of the US state of Washington, which lost US$1.5 million on the project as an investor.
One Hundred Sands was granted an exclusive 15-year license in December 2011 for a resort casino with 200 hotel rooms on Denarau Island. Pegged at US$290 million, plans called for a spa, pools, a nightclub, restaurants, MICE facilities and a 1,500-seat performing arts center. The company promised 1,600 jobs in the construction and operation of the resort, which was supposed to open last October.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiym, minister of trade for the South Pacific archipelago, which lies about 1,100 miles north of New Zealand, said at the time the casino would be “fantastic for the country”.
“A lot of jobs will be created and, likewise, the economy will be boosted financially.”
The general secretary of Fiji’s Hotel Workers Union, Daniel Urai, was less sanguine, telling the Fiji Times his members were skeptical and believed the government had been misled.
In March, it was reported that One Hundred Sands was paying the government US$100,000 a month in contract agreement delays, which appeared to signal that funding had been secured and the project was back on track. One Hundred Sands Chairman Larry Claunch said at the time that construction was under way with an opening expected in mid-2015.
But that was thrown into doubt in April when the Snoqualmie, who own a casino in Washington, said they had ended their involvement and accused One Hundred Sands of defaulting on the $1.5 the company had borrowed from them.
Mr Claunch responded with a claim that he had secured funding from other sources. “The project is moving forward quickly,” he said.