The government of Tonga is reported to have tentatively approved a scheme that will see a firm called Amira-Union-Gatti partner with American company Red Warrior Entertainment to build and operate a first casino for the archipelago nation.

According to a report from Radio New Zealand, the pair will be required to invest at least $450 million in order to construct their Tavake Tamafua Investment Project, which is to feature a trio of facilities encompassing the Pearl Airport Hotel And Shopping Mall and the luxury Frangipani Luxevillas apartment complex as well as the Aria Tourism Entertainment Gaming Resort.

Casinos and gambling are currently outlawed under Tonga’s Criminal Offences Act of 1926 and January saw the office of Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva forced to counter a claim that Amira-Union-Gatti and Red Warrior Entertainment had already been granted permission to build the casino portion of their Tavake Tamafua Investment Project. But, Radio New Zealand reported that government minister Tevita Lavemaau has now written to the parties advising them that the nation will support the plan to build the Aria Tourism Entertainment Gaming Resort and intends to issue them with an exclusive gambling license within the next two years.

Radio New Zealand cited Havea Gatti from Amira-Union-Gatti as declaring that his firm will be required to source at least 80% of the labor required to build the Tavake Tamafua Investment Project from Tonga while he moreover explained that his company was well on its way to meeting all of the conditions set out by the government.

However, Gatti additionally conceded that the current local regulations against casinos and gambling will need to be changed before the Aria Tourism Entertainment Gaming Resort can receive its license, which is an eventuality the Matangi Tonga news domain reported was likely to draw protests from the majority of Tonga’s 103,000 citizens.