Taiwan must decriminalize gambling before launching casinos

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan said at a regular Cabinet meeting last week that before the government can outline plans to build casinos on the outlying islands, it will first have to decriminalize gambling on the islands.

No decision was made on the controversial issue of construction of offshore casinos, as Liu said only that „in principle, one of the major efforts in the development of the outlying islands is the construction of the tourism industry.“

Opening casinos on Taiwan’s outlying islands – especially the Penghu Islands — to attract tourists has not been able to achieve consensus despite years of discussion, mainly due to the fact that gambling is illegal.

The Penghu Islands, located in the Taiwan Strait, are in a poor economic and financial situation thanks to its lack of economic activity apart from fishing, and tourism has become its lifeline.

It has been suggested that the decriminalization of the Offshore Islands Development Act would boost the economy by helping to introduce the gaming industry to the islands, thereby attracting more visitors.

Liu said the Cabinet will need to push for the decriminalization of gaming before the casino plan can be outlined by the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD).

Should the Legislature Yuan legalize the gaming industry on the outlying islands, the Cabinet will then need to draft a statute to regulate gaming.

While the present Cabinet bid is a long way from actually building the gaming industry, Liu’s statement nevertheless marked a step forward and suggests that the casino plan might finally see the light after decades of debate.

President Ma Ying-jeou has shown his support for the casino plan, saying before his May 20 inauguration that once Penghu residents reach consensus on the casino issue, the central government will spare no efforts to help facilitate the development.