After having discussed the possibility of approving a casino in either one of the outlying island chains of Penghu for a number of years, following a county election committee decision on Monday, a referendum among residents will be held on October 15 to vote on whether to legalize casinos within its county boundary, as reported by GGRAsia citing Taiwanese media.
Prior to October 22, an announcement will be made regarding the results of the referendum, according to the news agency’s report of Taiwan’s Chinese-language media, which cited the source of the information as the Penghu election committee.
Not the first request for a vote on the casino issue, in September 2009 a Penghu referendum was held that resulted in more than 17,000 eligible electorate in Penghu voting against legalizing casinos in their country. While the ban on commercial casino gambling on Taiwan’s outlying island chains of Penghu, Matsu, and Kinmen was lifted by Taiwan’s government in 2009, a ban on such activity is still applicable to the main island.
In July 2012 referendum, the residents of Matsu voted in favor of bringing casino resorts to the island in order to help increase tourism and boost the local economy. However, the final decision of whether or not to authorize the regulation of them on outlying islands would ultimately be up to Taiwan’s central government.
Four days of sessions held last week, which were described as “explanation sessions” by the county election committee, were the source of disputes between groups opposed to the casino and those in favor of casino regulation, as reported by Taiwan’s Chinese-language media outlets. The government has been asked by those groups opposed to casino gaming in Penghu, that prior to the referendum at least two public debate sessions be held on the issue, as reported by Taiwan’s Chinese-language newspaper Liberty Times.
The success of Taiwan’s casino industry could hinge on the visa policies of Mainland China. In 2015, China’s government made it clear that it would not allow its citizens to travel and gamble at any of Taiwan’s outlying islands where the operation of casinos was approved. There are only a few kilometers separating the Matsu chain from the mainland Chinese city of Fuzhou in Fujian province, while the same can be said for the Kinmen chain in relation to its location from Xiamen in Fujian.
The central government requires the ‘Tourism Casino Administration Act’ to be approved in the Legislative Yuan before the casino industry in Penghu can be approved, however the act has been stalled since 2013 when the island of Matsu sought legalization of the casino industry.