Residents of Taiwan’s Penghu County have once again rejected bringing casino gambling to the outlying island region.
On Saturday, the Penghu government announced that voters had overwhelmingly rejected the idea of authorizing casino development as a means of driving tourism in the county. The referendum results showed 26,598 votes against the casino plan and just 6,210 votes in favor.
This is the second time Penghu’s residents have pushed back against the drive to bring casinos to Taiwan, and this year’s results were even more strongly opposed. In 2009, around 56% of votes cast were opposed to casinos compared to 81% this time around.
Turnout for this year’s referendum was smaller than in 2009. While around half of eligible voters cast a ballot in 2009, this year’s poll was under 40%, suggesting an element of voter fatigue on the issue. The head of Penghu’s pro-casino push said he doubted his group would mount a similar effort in 2019, the earliest possible date for another referendum.
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which had publicly expressed its opposition to casinos in Penghu this week, wasted no time celebrating the result, saying Penghu’s residents “have shown their collective will.” The DPP said it would work to develop Penghu’s tourism industry “with its own characteristics.”
Taiwan’s legislature amended its Offshore Islands Development Act in 2009 to permit outlying island regions to authorize casino development if a majority of local residents approved the idea. In 2012, residents of the Matsu island group voted to allow casinos, but Taiwan has yet to approve the implementing regulations that would allow Matsu’s casino plans to progress beyond the conceptual stage.
Some international casino operators have expressed interest in Taiwan but many of these operators have stated that their preferred locale would be the country’s capital Taipei, based on the outlying islands’ lack of critical infrastructure.
Taiwan’s casino future remains cloudy, in part because China – which still views Taiwan as a ‘renegade’ province – has suggested it would prevent mainland residents from traveling to Taiwan for the purpose of gambling. China has also threatened to impose trade restrictions on Taiwan should it proceed with its casino plans.
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