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Taiwan rejects call for referendum on mahjong gambling

Campaigners wanted to allow bets of up to NT$1,000 for residents 65 and older

Taiwan rules against holding a referendum on mahjong gambling. 

Taiwan rules against holding a referendum on mahjong gambling.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Voters will not have the opportunity to decide whether senior citizens should be allowed to bet up to NT$1,000 (US$31) on mahjong games, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said Friday (Oct. 20).

The proposal for a referendum was filed by Kuo Hsi (郭璽), a former Navy adviser who founded and chairs the Taiwan Mahjong Greatest Party. The CEC decided Friday that after public hearings and requests for additional information, the proposal could not be accepted, per CNA.

Article 266 of the Criminal Code bans gambling in public places and online without mentioning an age or amounts of money that can be gambled. The fine for violations of the law can reach a maximum of NT$50,000, though there is an exception for “temporary entertainment.” Playing mahjong is popular around holiday periods, particularly the Lunar New Year.

The CEC ruled that the proposed referendum did not comply with the conditions set for the holding of a national referendum. Even if it had been approved by the CEC, organizers would have still needed to collect signatures from 1.5% of the electorate before any referendum could be validated and put to a vote.