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Quake shakes online casino launch

One of the massive boulders shaken into Port Vila by the earthquake
One of the massive boulders shaken into Port Vila by the earthquake  

PORT VILA, Vanuatu -- An earthquake on a tiny South Pacific island nation signaled an inauspicious start for Australian billionaire businessman Kerry Packer's Vanuatu-based online casino.

The website crashed soon after the quake, although the site was up and running again by Friday afternoon.

Packer's company PBL runs the enormous Crown Casino in the southern city of Melbourne, but plans for online operations were thwarted by an Australian government ban on cyber-gambling.

Packer then decided to base his virtual casino operations in Vanuatu, but he is not allowed, under Australian law, to offer online gaming to Australian gamblers.

Meanwhile, a major aftershock rocked Vanuatu, a day after the powerful earthquake caused major damage.

The aftershock, which was a magnitude of 6.4, hit the main island of Efate at 2:39 a.m. local time (1739 GMT Thursday), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It was centered beneath the sea, 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Port Vila, the nation's capital.

"It was quite frightening. We thought it was happening all over again," New Zealand deputy high commissioner Elizabeth Wilson told the Associated Press.

On Thursday an earthquake measuring magnitude 7.3 caused landslides and damaged buildings in the sleepy Port Vila.

Huge boulders rolled down hillsides and into Port Vila's harbor, cutting off access to its docks.

Vanuatu is a nation of about 200,000 people and 80 islands, 2,250 miles (1,400 miles) northeast of Sydney, Australia.

Formerly known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu sits in the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," which is dotted with active and dormant volcanoes and is earthquake prone.




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