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June 22, 2021

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Anti-casino protesters rally in Taiwan ahead of key Penghu referendum

Anti-casino protesters rally in Taiwan ahead of key Penghu referendum
Dozens of civic group representatives and residents demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan Monday in Taipei, urging Penghu voters to vote down a referendum that would allow casinos to operate in the island county.
Taiwan | 09/27/2016

Dozens of civic group representatives and residents demonstrated outside the Legislative Yuan Monday in Taipei, urging Penghu voters to vote down a referendum that would allow casinos to operate in the island county.

T

he protesters, among them Penghu community representatives, scholars, religious leaders and lawmakers, as well as parents and children, said that pro-gambling groups were inflating potential benefits to the islands' economy.

Developers have claimed that casinos could generate NT$4 billion per year in revenue and have promised cash handouts of NT$80,000 per year to seniors and subsidies of NT$30,000 per year to students. They have also promised subsidies of NT$50,000 per year to parents of children between the ages of 1 and 6.

The demonstrators chanted, "No to casinos, save Taiwan; no to casinos, save Penghu"

They also performed a skit, in which actors portraying casino proponents attempted to confuse residents by using euphemisms like "internationalization," "economic development" and "international tourism resorts" to mask the negative side effects of casino legalization.

Religious representative Shih Chao-hui argued that casinos would be detrimental to morality, because gambling can be highly addictive, and that the industry would prove ruinous to the savings of families in Penghu.

Comparisons with Macau

National Chengchi University professor and Penghu native Cheng Tung-liao said casinos on the island would lead to overdevelopment. He also cited high dropout rates among high school students in Macau, which is often referred to as "Asia's Las Vegas," and said Macau residents have warned that once gambling becomes entrenched in an economy, there is no going back.

Some of the "no" camp were critical of the ruling government for not taking a strong enough stance against legalized gambling. A spokesman for the Democratic Progressive Party said earlier this month that it has not wavered in its opposition to casinos and urged residents to vote "no" in the referendum to safeguard Penghu's future and the health of its children."

DPP lawmakers present at the protest reiterated their party's line and added that the government would act to strictly supervise and obstruct any opposition Kuomintang plans to introduce gambling-related legislation

In 2012, residents of the Matsu Islands (also an offshore island group of Taiwan) voted in favor of allowing the construction of a casino on the islands. Four years after the referendum, no casinos have been established, and anti-gambling forces have said that the referendum is a ploy to increase property speculation.

"No" campaigners want lawmakers to amend the existing Offshore Island Development Act to remove articles that permit the establishment of casinos if the consent of locals is obtained.

Penghu last held a referendum on casinos in 2009, with residents opposing the legalization of casinos by a 56.4 percent majority. Under current laws, failed referendums can only be brought up again for a vote when three years have passed since the initial vote.

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