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What’s this – a casino for Christmas Island?

October 24, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Australia’s Christmas Island is associated in many minds with the arrival of asylum seekers in boats, or vast migrations of land crabs – but it now turns out the Australian Government is actively investigating setting up a casino there.

Early this year an Australian Government delegation visited the island to find the best way to boost ecotourism and beach holidays. A casino would be a radical departure from that idea but it’s now under active consideration.

Federal Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, Sussan Ley, has confirmed that the Australian Government is considering “issues associated with a Casino on Christmas Island”.

“I announced during my visit to Christmas Island in early October that the Prime Minister has asked me to consult with my ministerial colleagues and the community on issues associated with a casino on Christmas Island, and to develop a proposal to inform a decision by the Australian Government,” Ley stated.

“The views of the Christmas Island community, including the business sector, are critical to the development of the proposal.

“I have asked the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities to meet with the community, businesses, religious groups and all other interested stakeholders on Christmas Island between 6 and 9 November 2018.”

Consultations will discuss the impact of a casino on the local economy, community and environment, its potential viability, and regulatory arrangements. An issues paper will provide background information and support discussions.

Red crabs cross a Christmas Island road in safety on special walkway

“I appreciate that Christmas Island is facing an economic transition over the coming months,” Ley said.

“The Australian Government is committed to Christmas Island and to work in partnership with you during this transition.”

Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands were voted last year as having some of the best beaches in Australia, with their pristine coral reefs, and largely untouched national parks.

Their closeness to Asia could make them attractive to visitors wishing to combine ecotourism with a casino visit, an unusual combo. The concept is bound to be controversial.

There’s plenty of ecotourism potential. The mass migration of millions of endemic red land crabs each December turns the Indian Ocean island into the set of a real-life Discovery Channel documentary.

Juvenile Abbott’s booby (Papasula abbotti)

Apart from the crabs, local fauna includes Abbott’s booby (Papasula abbotti). Christmas Island shelters the world’s last breeding ground of this rare bird. Just incidentally, Abbott’s booby is named after American naturalist William Louis Abbott, who collected the first specimen from Assumption Island in 1892.

Written by Peter Needham

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