The government for the archipelago nation of Tonga has reportedly been forced to counter a claim that it recently awarded a first-ever casino license to an American firm known as Red Warrior Entertainment.

According to a report from the Matangi Tonga news domain, Ronald Pate, Chief Executive Officer for Red Warrior Entertainment, announced earlier this month that his Turks And Caicos-registered firm had been granted “an exclusive national master gaming license” to operate a casino in Tonga. The executive reportedly cited cabinet decision 1194, which was allegedly ratified on November 4, 2016, and claimed to have additionally received a formal consent letter and proclamation with the entire process having been completed a little over two weeks ago.

However, the office of Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva, who has been in charge since December of 2014, has refuted the claim by reminding citizens that gambling is prohibited under local laws and “therefore any intention from Red Warrior Entertainment or any casino company to apply for a gaming license would be futile”.

Casinos and gambling are outlawed under Tonga’s Criminal Offences Act of 1926 and the Prime Minister’s office moreover issued a veiled warning by stating that “any proposal that will be deemed to disrupt the peace and harmony of the society will be given careful scrutiny and consideration”.

The statement from Pohiva’s representatives further described Red Warrior Entertainment as a “foreign team counterpart” of an investment firm known as Amira-Unison-Gatti, which it detailed had applied in November for permission to begin work on its Tavake Tamafua Investment Project. The explanation noted that this scheme was due to encompass a trio of projects including an integrated casino resort known as the Aria Tourism Entertainment Gaming Resort but that officials had only initially supported the non-gaming portions of the development, which included a shopping mall and an assortment of villas.

“The cabinet further directed that the full plan for the Pearl Airport Hotel And Shopping Mall and the Frangipani Luxevillas are to be submitted for final consideration and approval,” read the statement from Pohiva’s office before adding that final government consent remains “subject to facilitation of legal documents and relevant plans and the conduct of appropriate due diligence”.

Matangi Tonga further reported that the majority of Tonga’s 103,000 citizens would likely be opposed to legalized gambling taking place on any of the nation’s 169 islands while Tevita Haukinima, Treasurer for the Free Wesleyan Church Of Tonga, stated that he had not believed Red Warrior Entertainment’s assertion that it had been granted a casino license.

“We at the Free Wesleyan Church Of Tonga do not believe in casinos and dealing cards,” Haukinima told Matangi Tonga. “This is what the church believes and what Christians believe as well as our pastors and people of the church. It might bring about problems in society that will affect the people. We all know of casinos overseas and the difficulties it brings and I think the same thing would happen in Tonga.”

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