Real Time Gaming Asia

Taiwan casino referendum scheduled for October

Residents in the country’s outlying island of Penghu will have to decide on whether they will allow casinos in their hometown.

Taiwan.- A public referendum will take place on October 15 to discuss the possibility of bringing casino gaming to Penghu, the islands in the Taiwan Strait. The results are expected to be released a week after the referendum.

If it gets accepted, it would be passed onto the Taiwan central government for final approval. 2016 marks the second time that Penghu residents are asked to vote, since the country held a referendum in September 2009, when the government lifted the prohibition on gambling on Taiwan’s islands Matsu, Kinsmen and Penghu. Seven years ago the results were considerably bad, about 56.44 percent of the total valid ballots were cast against the plan to build a casino on the island. Taiwan’s Referendum Act currently forbids groups to raise the same proposal within three years.

The bill follows more than 5000 signatures of eligible voters, which surpasses the minimum 4114 it requires. Whilst gaming is banned on the Taiwan mainland, the legislature passed the Offshore Islands Development Act in 2009 in order to allow the legalisation of casinos based on public opinion. The main goal was to boost tourism and taxes.

Analysts estimate that casinos could be operating within five years under tight regulatory framework. Opposition groups argue that casinos could cause social harm and demanded the government to host two public debate sessions ahead of the referendum. Sheng Yi-che, a vocal opponent of the plan, said: “The referendum is tainted by a threat. It shows contempt for people’s right to engage in public discourse.”