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Residents of Taiwan’s Penghu County Reject Casino Development Plan
- October 17, 2016 By Oliver Young -
The residents of Penghu County in Taiwan had the chance to decide whether they want casinos to be built in the county. Penghu one of the smallest Taiwanese counties, consisted of numerous small islands. The vast majority of the citizens rejected the proposal, even though it was suggested that legalising casinos would significantly increase the county’s tourism revenues.
This was the second referendum on the same issues, the first one was held in 2009. Major political forces in Taiwan were against the idea. Experts in Taiwanese politics claim this attitude, might be motivated by the fear of a Chinese reaction. Chinese authorities have warned Taiwan that casino legalisation might result in an effective ban on Chinese citizens to visit Taiwan for gambling purposes.
And we know that Chinese authorities can be quite ruthless when it comes to sanctioning gambling operators.
More than 80% Voted Against
On the referendum day, only slightly more than one third of the eligible voters turned up to cast their vote, compared to about a half of them in 2009. Furthermore, the result is more disappointing for pro-casino lobbyists, as a total of 81% of the voters were against the legalisation proposal. In 2009, only 55% of the voters were against. Only 6,210 voted in favour of the casino proposal, compared to over 26,500 who voted against.
Some have claimed that the negative result reflects the voters’ fatigue, as they have been asked to state their opinion on a proposal they have already rejected. The pro-gambling coalition earlier announced that they would request another referendum for 2019, but after the votes have been cast and counted, they indicated that they don’t intend to push the matter any further.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is currently governing Taiwan and was a strong opponent of the Penghu casino proposal. A representative of the party stated that the will of the residents was clear, adding that the party will keep on working on the development of Penghu’s tourism.
China Strongly Opposes Establishment of Casinos in Taiwan
Referendums like the one that was just held and the one from 2009 were actually enabled after Taiwan’s Parliament changed its Offshore Islands Development Act in 2009. The changes allowed counties and regions to allow casino development if the majority of citizens voted in favour of the idea.
Residents of the Matsu group of islands voted in favour of casino development, but the central authorities haven’t yet approved the island’s casino development plans, so everything is still on hold.
Certain major casino operators have already shown interest in expanding to Taiwan. However, they would prefer if they could build casinos in or near the capital Taipei, as the rest of Taiwan lacks necessary infrastructure.
China’s opposition is the biggest obstacle for a development of a casino industry in Taiwan. Namely, China still treats Taiwan as part of its territory, rather than a separate country and will not accept the establishment of casinos on the island. In addition to a possible ban on Chinese citizens travelling to Taiwan for gambling purposes, mainland China has tried to intimidate Taiwanese authorities by announcing that it might impose trade restrictions on the island.