Anti-casino protesters rally outside legislature in Taipei

Penghu residents should vote NO to the establishment of casinos, announced protesters outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Taiwan.- According to protesters gathering outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Penghu residents should vote “no” to the establishment of casinos. Over 30 people from a range of local groups, religious organisations and environmental groups gathered outside the Legislative Yuan’s gates, shouting their opposition whilst brandishing props such as a dice-emblazoned Republic of China flag, symbolising the protesters’ belief that allowing offshore gambling would turn the nation into the “Republic of Casino.”A referendum to be conducted next month will be the nation’s fourth local vote to be held under the Referendum Act and follows the defeat of a 2009 referendum on casinos.

“For Penghu’s sustainable development, it is crucial that we reject the establishment of casinos,” said Fu Ching-fan, the convener of the county’s anti-casino alliance, citing a “vicious broken window effect” that could lead to increases in crime and have detrimental effects on other industries. “Penghu is progressing. Penghu is developing. So to say that only casinos can bring development to the county is false,” he said, adding that the annual number of tourists to Penghu has jumped from 500,000 to more than 1 million since the 2009 referendum.

Casino advocates on the other hand, claims that casinos would lead to Penghu’s “internationalisation” by attracting foreign gamblers. However, Alliance Against the Legalisation of Gambling convener Shih Chao-hwei said these intentions are misleading, adding that the focus on potential local gamblers was “crystal clear” given an extended slump at Macau’s casinos.

“So-called ‘international gambling’ is fake, and the reality is that we will end up with many Taiwanese addicted to gambling,” Shih said. “This is an evil industry focused on swallowing up Taiwanese, and we hope that Penghu residents will vote with their eyes wide open,” she added.

Next month’s referendum should be defeated to help shield legislators from pressure to pass legislation enabling gambling, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Yu-chin said as she stood with the protesters, reiterating what she called the party’s position.

Amendments to the Offshore Islands Development Act in 2009 decriminalised gambling activities in the nation’s offshore islands but require that the establishment of casinos be approved by a simple majority in a special referendum exempt from normal voter turnout thresholds. The amendments also stipulated that the Legislative Yuan must pass legislation on casino registration and regulation, which has yet to be done. Lienchiang County in 2012 voted to approve the establishments of casinos, but none have yet opened.