Taiwan’s small island chain consisting of Penghu, Matsu and Kinmen have been pushing hard for a number of years to receive approval to provide casino gaming on the island. Ever since Taiwan lifted its prohibition on gambling in 2009, these islands have tried to gain approval from the government to offer casino gaming services in an effort to increase tourism and boost the overall economy of the island.
Back in July 2012, the residents of Matsu voted via a referendum to allow casinos to operate but a similar referendum in Penghu had the opposite results as locals did not appear to be in favour of the casino industry. Now a new group called the ‘Alliance Promoting Internationalisation of Penghu’ has started a new push to hold another referendum in June to see if the locals have had a change of heart.
According to media reports there are a total of 82,269 adults in Penghu who are eligible to vote and the group would have to obtain a minimum of 5 percent or 4,113 of these voter’s signatures before the end of April, in order to push for a local referendum in June.
These numbers might prove to be difficult based on the fact that the first referendum which was held in September 2009 received a total of 17,000 signatures who were not in favour of casino gaming. However, the Alliance remains confident that it can obtain around 6,000 signatures before the end of April. Even if the referendum goes in favour of casino gaming, it will still require the central government of Taiwan to make the final decision in approving casinos to operate in Penghu.
One of the things that could work in favour of the Alliance is the fact that the country’s ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is in favour of the referendum and wants Penghu to regulate casino gaming. Based on media reports, the office for the ‘Alliance Promoting Internationalisation of Penghu’ is located alongside the election headquarters of Chen Kuang-fu, a senior DPP member and Penghu’s county head.
The central government is still in the process of reviewing a casino draft bill to regulate gambling within the country’s boundaries. Should Penghu decide to license casinos on the island, its success will depend heavily on attracting a regular stream of tourists from Mainland China. In 2015, officials from Mainland China were against the idea of allowing Chinese to travel to Taiwan’s islands to take part in gambling related activities.