Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Taiwan issues casino licenses amid protests

In March, Taiwan issued two gambling resort licenses to AMZ Holdings Plc and to Taiwan’s Penghu Bay Development Company. These were the first licenses granted since the government lifted the decade-long ban on gambling in January. Both companies have already been moving ahead with site preparation on Penghu Island, the largest offshore island off Taiwan.

The Taipei-based China Times reported that the companies granted licenses would have to commit to building a resort with at least 1000 rooms. However, the biggest hurdle might not be building such a large resort, but rather, in getting local approval to build the casinos in the first place. Although the government has now legalized casinos, the developers can only proceed with the construction if they also gain the approval of the local residents in a referendum. Approval might prove difficult given the emerging local opposition to the plans.

Worrying that the casinos will increase crime and create moral degeneration on the islands, hundreds of demonstrators from religious and environmental protection groups took to the streets in Taipei to vent their opposition. According to the Taiwan News, protesters fear that gambling would cause more drug addiction, debt, social problems and family conflicts, while the casinos might “attract gangsters and prostitutes.”

Although the offshore islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Penghu, Liuchiu, Green Island (Lutao) and Orchid Island (Lanyu) qualify for casinos, the government is not planning to issue any more licenses in the next 10 years. It hopes this will limit competition and minimize possible negative social impacts. Penghu hopes to attract half a million visitors a year, generating US$3 billion worth of revenue annually in gambling and tourism, and creating up to 50,000 jobs. If approved by the local community, the casino resorts are expected to open in 2013.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.