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Anti-gambling activists to observe Matsu casino referendum

2012/06/28 14:25:34

Taipei, June 28 (CNA) A group of anti-gambling activists are scheduled to sail to the outlying county of Matsu late Thursday to observe a referendum on a proposal to establish a casino there, organizers said that day.

The delegation will arrive in Matsu the following day to begin a 10-day observation leading up to the July 7 poll.

Chang Hung-lin, executive director of the Citizen Congress Watch, said the group is opposed to the proposal because in its opinion, trying to use casinos to stimulate the economic development of outlying areas is a "suicidal act."

"The government should pay more attention to developing transport systems in these areas," he said.

Although gambling remains illegal in Taiwan, a 2009 amendment to the Offshore Islands Development Act conditionally legalizes casino gambling on the outlying islands. Under the amendment, a casino can be opened if the project passes a referendum among local residents.

Based on the new provision, resort developer Weidner Resorts Taiwan is planning to build a resort on Beigan Island, one of the Matsu group, that will include a casino. The company has also promised to build an international airport and college town there, as well as a causeway linking Beigan to the neighboring island of Nangan.

However, Ho Tsung-hsun, convener of the Alliance Against the Legalization of Gambling, criticized the promises made by Weidner Resorts as "misleading."

According to Ho, without a gambling law, these promises are nothing more than "bad checks."

Pan Han-sheng of the Green Party, meanwhile, argued that building casinos "is not the only way to develop the outlying islands," as evidenced by Penghu's thriving tourism, despite the failure of a casino referendum there three years ago.

(By Zoe Wei and Y.F. Low)