Tai­wan’s Penghu re­jects di­vi­sive casino bid

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Res­i­dents on Tai­wan’s pris­tine Penghu is­lands over­whelm­ingly re­jected a pro­posal to al­low casino de­vel­op­ment yes­ter­day, an is­sue that has di­vided com­mu­ni­ties and politi­cians.

Sup­port­ers were hop­ing for the green light as Tai­wan’s econ­omy stag­nates, promis­ing a casino would boost jobs and tourism. Op­po­nents ar­gued gam­bling re­sorts would ruin the nat­u­ral land­scapes of the re­mote out­ly­ing is­land chain, which has a pop­u­la­tion of 100,000 and is pop­u­lar with vis­i­tors for its beaches and tur­tle sanc­tu­ar­ies.

Apart from state-run lot­ter­ies, gam­bling is banned in most of Tai­wan and there are cur­rently no le­gal casi­nos-al­though there is a thriv­ing un­der­ground gam­bling net­work.

How­ever, Tai­wan’s out­ly­ing is­lands have been given per­mis­sion to de­velop casi­nos, with a num­ber of caveats, in­clud­ing that lo­cal res­i­dents agree. The “no camp” won 81.1 per­cent of the vote in yes­ter­day’s ref­er­en­dum.

“We are pleased that peo­ple came out at the last minute to vote on this crit­i­cal is­sue,” said Penghu-born Sheng I-che, head of the pro-en­vi­ron­ment Tree Party, al­though he voiced dis­ap­point­ment at the 40 per­cent turnout. “It is not how we want to see Penghu de­velop,” he told AFP. It is the sec­ond time the western ar­chi­pel­ago has voted against casino de­vel­op­ment, hav­ing gone to the polls in 2009, when 56.4 per­cent op­posed. Sup­port­ers of the “yes” camp said with­out casi­nos Penghu would strug­gle to de­velop a more ro­bust lo­cal econ­omy.

“As we are un­able to get for­eign in­vest­ments, Penghu may never be­come sel­f­re­liant,” said Chuang Kuang-hui of the Penghu In­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion Pro­mo­tion Al­liance, which ini­ti­ated the vote.

Tai­wan’s Matsu Is­lands held a sim­i­lar vote in 2012 and came out in sup­port of a casino be­ing built. How­ever, none has ever been de­vel­oped there be­cause a par­lia­men­tary act lay­ing out gam­ing li­cens­ing and reg­u­la­tions, the fi­nal stamp for any casino to go ahead, has stalled in par­lia­ment. The rul­ing Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP) has taken a staunch anti-gam­bling stance, and there have also been reser­va­tions among some politi­cians from the op­po­si­tion Kuom­intang (KMT).

The DPP said yes­ter­day it re­spected the re­sults and the govern­ment would help Penghu up­grade its tourism in­dus­try and in­fra­struc­ture. “The over­all de­vel­op­ment should be ori­ented to eco­log­i­cal, sus­tain­able and cul­tural de­mands,” the DPP said in a state­ment.

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