Taiwan nearing approval for casinos

Dec 6, 2008 2:00 AM

by GT Staff |

Taiwan’s parliament is reportedly set to legalize gambling on a group of offshore islands next year legislative sources said on Monday as local officials eye permits for three resort casinos to help shore up their economy.

The possible passage of a bill authorizing gaming in the Penghu archipelago would hopefully bring Taiwan into competition with other East Asian gaming locales like Macau and South Korea as well as coming casinos in Singapore, according to a Reuters story.

The summer destination of Penghu – which lies dormant during the winter months – located on the Taiwan Strait wants to issue three casino permits, most likely to resorts, after the passage of the legislation. For years, talk of legalizing gambling in the country has sprung up but efforts have received a great boost from the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou which took office in May.

“We don’t want to exceed three licenses,” said Su Kun-hsiung, mayor of Penghu’s main city Makung. “We’re not going to be the same as Macau.” Macau currently has 28 casinos.

In a closed-door meeting last Friday, legislators in Taiwan agreed to put their gaming bill to a formal vote, with a majority indicating support, according to a senior legislative aide speaking on anonymity while the legislation was still pending. Penghu’s legislator Peter Lin expects the bill to pass by the end of this month.

British AMZ Holdings is one of three operators now looking at sites in Penghu (population 90,000), with plans to build as many as 500 rooms on a barren 11-hectacre coastal tract, spending $200 million on construction and partnering with one of the world’s top five casinos, the firm’s Taiwan president Ashley Hines said.

Opposition to the legalization of gambling in Taiwan still persists though despite the overall positive air of enthusiasm for the plans.

“This is good only for the major hotels,” said Chen Chen-hsiu, owner of a souvenir shop for 19 years. “The overall economy here won’t see that much impact.”