Matsu, June 27 (CNA) People should not "demonize" the gambling industry without offering evidence that it is evil, said Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai Wednesday, weighing in on the heated debate over whether gambling should be allowed on the outlying island of Matsu.
Lung made the comment during a two-day visit to Matsu, where a referendum is scheduled to take place on July 7 to decide whether Matsu should allow casinos.
The initiative has drawn strong opposition from anti-gambling activists and some Matsu residents, who fear the potentially negative impact of gambling on society and the potential damage the industry could cause to the remote island's valuable ecological heritage.
Other residents and the administrator of the island group, however, have backed the opening.
Yang Sui-sheng, head of the Lienchiang County government that governs Matsu, told CNA that bringing in casinos is an option that will help the remote island's economic development.
He contended that the policy would lead to the improvement of the island's transportation network, which would help bring in more visitors and money.
Asked for her opinions of the issue, Lung, who is also a renowned cultural critic, said she could understand the desire of Yang and other Matsu residents to deal with the long-term outbound transportation problem by allowing the opening of casinos.
She also acknowledged, however, that such an approach would have its costs.
Lung said that if she were a Matsu resident, she would ask related authorities to conduct a study of the countries in which gambling is legal to find out what they gain and what they lose after allowing casinos to be built.
But she stressed that she does not believe casino construction inherently damages the cultural landscape of a place. "People should not demonize gambling without any investigation," she said.
The minister advised people to take supplementary measures and social costs into consideration when weighing the advantages and disadvantages of introducing gambling to Matsu.
(By Chen Ching-wen and Elizabeth Hsu)