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Will Taiwan's defense outpost become casino hub?

Will Taiwan's defense outpost become casino hub?

Kinmen, Aug. 27 (CNA) Residents on Taiwan's outlying island of Kinmen may soon go to the polls to decide whether the defense outpost could turn into a casino hub.
That prospect became more likely Thursday, with an activist filing a petition with the Kinmen county government to hold a referendum on whether to legalize gaming on the island and allow the establishment of tourist casinos.
Kinmen, composed of 12 islets, lies closer to China's southeastern province of Fujian than to Taiwan proper. It used to be Taiwan's froneline island against China and in the late 50s and early 60s was the target of intense shelling by Communist China. With cross-strait ties improving, the number of troops stationed there has significantly decreased and tourism has become the backbone of its economic activities.
Chen Chang-chiang, head of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP's) Kinmen chapter, filed the petition in his capacity as convener of the organizing committee of a Kinmen County tourism industry promotion association.
To back his petition, Chen also produced 460 signatures endorsing the proposal.
"According to the Referendum Act, the casino referendum petition needs formal endorsement by at least 0.5 percent of eligible voters in the county's last magistrate election, namely at least 354 signatures, " Chen said, adding that the number of signatures collected by the association is well over that threshold.
A county government official received the petition along with signatures from Chen and promised to pass them to the Kinmen County Election Commission for processing.
If the petition passes the screening, Chen's association will then launch the second stage of signature campaign to qualify for putting the proposal to a referendum.
Stressing that he is petitioning for the referendum in his private capacity, Chen said the move has nothing to do with his party's position. The DPP is known to oppose legalizing casinos on outlying islands.
Chen also argued that his petition does not necessarily imply his personal support for the proposal.
"My move just signifies my belief that the issue should be determined by the majority of local residents instead by a few politicians' personal stance or ideology, " Chen said, claiming that the county government and the county council have been reluctant to address the issue.
Gambling has long been banned in Taiwan, but the Legislative Yuan passed legislation on Jan. 12 to legalize casino gambling on outlying islands.
The offshore county of Penghu is scheduled to hold a referendum on whether to allow casinos to be built there on Sept. 26.
Chen said that although Kinmen lagged behind Penghu in launching the drive, his association managed to collect the more-than-required-number of endorsements in just three days.
"The promptness indicates that local residents do not reject the proposal to permit the establishment of tourist casinos, " Chen contended.
According to Chen, Lawrence Ho, the son of Macau gaming business tycoon Stanley Ho, toured Kinmen on Aug. 7 to get a sense of the county's business environment and expressed keen interest in tapping the market.
"It is generally believed that Kinmen residents will approve the casino business if a referendum is held, " Chen argued. "Given a fast thawing in relations across the Taiwan Strait, it seems to me that Kinmen stands a better chance than Penghu to operate tourist casino businesses." (By Sofia Wu)




Updated : 2021-07-24 22:05 GMT+08:00