TAIPEI Taiwan island rejects casino bid
RESIDENTS on Taiwan’s pristine Penghu islands have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to allow casino development, 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 the referendum.
It is the second time the western archipelago has voted against casino development, having gone to the polls in 2009, when 56.4pc 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 self-reliant,” said Chuang Kuang-hui of the Penghu Internationalisation 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. –