Taiwan Legislature to discuss casinos for outlying islands close to China

Taiwanese legislature is planning to discuss a proposal to legalize gambling and casinos on outlying islands close to China, while police say they will take tough measures against eventual crime linked to gambling.

The proposal up for discussion at the Legislative Yuan’s Economic Affairs Committee comes from a small group of independent lawmakers, but the larger parties are likely to request changes.

The ruling Kuomintang, which holds an overwhelming majority at the Legislative Yuan, has said it is likely to support the independents’ proposal, but only if measures are added strengthening law and order. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party says that as long as gambling has not been decriminalized, it will oppose the opening of casinos on the islands.

For years, proposals have been around to set up casinos on outlying islands like Penghu, halfway between Taiwan’s main island and China, to boost the local economy and stop residents from leaving and looking for work elsewhere. The sponsors of Monday’s proposals say that casinos already operate in 140 countries, and that Taiwan’s minor islands need them to raise their tourism revenue.

KMT lawmaker Chang Shuo-wen said Sunday that apart from Penghu, casinos should also be considered for Kinmen close to the coast of China’s Fujian Province, and even cities on Taiwan’s west and east coast. Proponents have insisted on Taiwan legalizing casinos by pointing at the success of Macau in attracting investment from US casino groups and business from Chinese gamblers.

Critics including religious groups have warned against rising crime and social problems, while they say the casinos will not bring wealth to the local population. More crime, drug dealing and prostitution will be the main results, the activists say.

Police have said that if gambling is legalized, they will strengthen manpower and patrols around the casinos, install security cameras and keep known criminals under close observation.

Currently, Macau is gobbling up all of the tourism money in the area. New Chinese visa laws, however, are making it tougher for people to travel from China to Macau. That leaves the door open for these islands to add casinos.

Many states within the United States have been changing their casino gambling laws. They have been forced into the move by the struggling economy. Another reason states have had to entertain new casinos is to keep up with their neighbors.

States are watching their residents go to neighboring states to gamble in their casinos. That is causing each state to re-examine their laws to try and keep their residents money inside the state that is important in these tough economic times.