Home » Two Australian businessmen bought a casino in a tropical paradise — only to shut it down

Two Australian businessmen bought a casino in a tropical paradise — only to shut it down

The Jewel casino once stood at the turquoise shores of Iririki Island — crowned with a white sign tempting tourists to cross the bay from Vanuatu’s capital city.

Australian businessmen and brothers Brendon and Mark Deeley bought the venue in March — and then promptly shut it down.

“We’re quite possibly the first people to ever purposely buy a casino to shut it down in a low-tax jurisdiction,” Brendon Deeley said.

“That’s a pretty cool thing to be able to say.”

Iririki resort reopened in 2016, after being damaged by Cyclone Pam the year before.(ABC News: Doug Dingwall)

The casino was a part of Iririki Island Resort, looking back towards Port Vila and its bustling daily life.

The Deeley brothers have turned it into a conference centre but say their decision to close the casino was about morals.

“Our motivation was actually that we don’t like casinos,” Brendon Deeley said.

“And certainly, we see the damage that they cause in society. For us, we didn’t want to be part of that.

“They tend to take money out of people’s families, out of people’s food, that people would otherwise spend.

“I can’t see a casino in the world that actually brings any good to the world.”

Iririki Resort, a short boat ride from Port Vila, was reopened and relaunched with the casino in 2016, after the devastation of Cyclone Pam the year before.

It was one of several to emerge in the South Pacific tourist destination, aiming to attract visitors from overseas.

But some say it sat awkwardly in a deeply Christian nation that maintains strong connections to its traditions.

It’s maybe no coincidence that the Deeley brothers — both Christians — shut the casino the day before Good Friday.

“The timing of that happening just before Easter certainly was I think a blessing for the people of Vanuatu,” Brendon Deeley said.

‘Trickle down’ tourism

The Jewel was marketed as a chance for tourists to have a flutter at their resort on a tropical holiday.

But the presence of casinos in Vanuatu has raised issues for the developing nation, where high inflation has increased the cost of living, according to the president of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Antoine Boudier.

“As we all know, I’ve never seen any casino today losing any money,” he said.

“And usually it’s always in the service of the casino. So we have seen a lot of damage, a lot of people getting addicted to casinos.”