remier Liu Chao-shiuan’s Cabinet decided to legalize casino gambling to boost the economy of remote islands, including Kinmen near the Chinese province of Fujian and Penghu in the middle of the Taiwan Straits. Environmentalist and religious groups say the casinos will create more problems than they solve. Gambling will cause more addiction, more debt, more social problems and family conflicts, while the casinos will attract gangsters and prostitutes, the protesters said.
The government recently decided to issue up to two casino licenses, the Chinese-language China Times reported in its yesterday edition. In order to avoid saturating the market, a third license will not be issued until at least a decade later, the paper said.
Around the middle of this year, local communities will have the opportunity to voice their opinions in public referendums. If the vote turns out positive, finding the casino operators will take place next year, with the gambling likely to start in 2013, the paper said.
Government rules stipulate that each casino will have to form part of an international holiday resort or hotel complex offering at least 1,000 rooms, according to the China Times. At present, no hotel in Taiwan has that many rooms, the paper said.
The Ministry of Transportation’s Tourism Bureau is expected to start inviting bids later this month to search for an international consultant to manage the casino project. The consultant will draw up requirements and standards to be followed by the casino operators.
According to present government plans, the only areas qualifying for casinos are Kinmen and Matsu, Penghu, Green Island and Orchid Island in Taitung County, and Liuchiu in Pingtung County. If any of the last three islands is chosen, the government will still have to decide whether referendums should only be held in the local communities or across the whole county.