he Penghu County government has proposed its casino resort on 130 coastal hectares with hotels, duty-free shops, a convention centre and a golf course, said Liu Mei-fan with the county's tourism bureau, which would concession out the land.
Taiwan hopes to stimulate the kind of growth seen in other places, most notably Macau, that have legalised or expanded gaming. But such growth could be hard to replicate due to the relative remoteness and lack of facilities in Penghu.
Big name firms from around Asia and the United States, including Harrah's Entertainment Inc, have visited Penghu, a chain of wind-hammered islands in the Taiwan Strait, to examine the investment potential, Liu said. "Penghu citizens have had this idea for more than 20 years, and when we held a referendum before, support was strong," Liu said. "There's a problem here. In the winter, we hit a low tourism season, so merchants have it tough then."
Taiwan's parliament voted in January to legalise gambling on offshore islands, paving the way for as many as three casino-resorts in Penghu. But before any casino goes forward, voters in Penghu, with a population of 90,000, must approve another referendum to legalise gambling and may go to the polls as early as next month.
The county's project should take shape over four to five years, Liu said. It would compete in Penghu with a privately-operated, 11-hectare, five-star project by British AMZ Holdings, which has broken ground on 80 villas and lined up institutional investors, the firm's Taiwan president Ashley Hines said. Construction is seen costing $200 million.