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Hard Rock Hotel in Dominican Republic to remove liquor from minibars

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By Ben Kesslen  with NBC News World News
Image: FBI Begins Investigation After 9th American Tourist Dies In Dominica
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.   -   Copyright  Joe Raedle

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in the Dominican Republican announced they are removing liquor dispensers from all guest rooms in the wake of American deaths that have shaken the island's tourism and raised concerns over the use of unregulated liquor.

At least nine American tourists have died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic in the last year.

While the causes of death for the deceased are not clear in all cases, investigators are looking into bootleg and unregulated alcohol as one of the sources. Toxicology reports for the decedents are still pending.

In their statement on Friday, the Hard Rock attributed the deaths at their Punta Cana resort and the island more broadly to natural causes and pre-existing conditions, but said the hotel is taking the step to remove alcohol from in-room minibars based on "guest feedback."

"The safety and health of our guests is now, and has always been, our highest priority," the group said.

The Hard Rock also announced they will be contracting a U.S. based healthcare facility to provide their guests with more comprehensive medical care.

On Tuesday, a State Department official told NBC News that "We have not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported to the department," and while reports of tourists dying are causing concern, nothing unusual is going on in the Dominican Republic.

The island nation's tourism board held a press conference on Friday and stressed the high standards they hold for their country's tourism industry.

"We are a model for global tourism," the country said. "Here we are talking about nine people, but there are countries in the area where ten times the number of Americans have died there. But all eyes are on us."

The Dominican Republic welcomes more than six million tourists a year, over two million of whom are from the U.S.

Last week, Vittorio Caruso, a U.S. citizen, died in the Dominican Republic, but the details of where and how died remain unverified.