Casinos for Christmas?

A parliamentary committee in the Australian territory of Christmas Island says reopening a casino there will bring in more tourists and help replace revenues lost due to a slowdown in other industries.

Other economic drivers stalled

Officials on Christmas Island off the coast of Australia say reopening a casino there will attract more tourists, especially Asians, and boost the local economy, according to a report in the Victoria Herald News.

The committee’s interim report recommends that the government develop a legal infrastructure for gaming “without delay.” The island in the Indian Ocean—which may be home to fewer than 1,000 permanent residents—is facing an economic slowdown in the phosphate mining industry and has also lost jobs in its refugee detention centers.

According to, casino supporters hope to attract Chinese high rollers and get its share of the “record $43 billion in VIP gambling turnover that the mainland betting houses of Crown Resorts and Echo Entertainment Group enjoyed in the six months to December.”

“If we don’t look at something like that, the overwhelming majority of the Christmas Islanders will have to rely totally on welfare,” said Warren Entsch, a member of the conservative federal government. Entsch says a casino would employ a fifth of the island’s population.

Last September, he recommended that the government grant a casino license to the current owner of Christmas Island Resort, once home of one of the world’s most profitable casinos.

Christmas Island’s remote location in the northeastern Indian Ocean is likely to inhibit tourism, as will the availability of other casinos in the region, said Trish O’Donnell, a local real estate. “It would be a fantastic thing if the casino did get off the ground, but who’s going to come to Christmas Island?” she said. “We’ve missed the boat. Singaporeans came here because they didn’t have a casino. They’ve got one now.”

In the mid-1990s, the former Christmas Island Casino and Resort was the preferred destination of gamblers from Indonesia. At its peak, the casino pulled in some AU$5 billion per year, according to media reports. The casino closed in 1998 during the Asian financial crisis, and later became housing for refugees. In 2004, an application to reopen it was rejected on grounds that it may have a negative social impact, according to In a 2014 report, the parliamentary committee recommended that the Australian government “commit to facilitating the approval process to enable the reopening of the Christmas Island casino.

“Neither mining nor immigration-related activities will sustain the island’s economy indefinitely,” the report continued, “and the casino has the potential to play a major role in transitioning the Christmas Island economy away from its traditional mainstays.”