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Taiwan’s Penghu Island Could Allow Casinos Based On Referendum

penghu islandTaiwan’s Penghu Island could end up issuing casino licenses and opening up to casino gambling before the end of this year based on a new referendum which is expected to take place before June 2016.

The island had previously voted against casino gambling in a referendum in 2009 which was held after the Taiwanese government approved casino gambling on the islands of Matsu, Kinmen and Penghu in the same year.

The island of Matsu subsequently decided in a referendum held in 2012 to allow casinos to function as a measure to improve its economy.

Media reports state that a local group called ‘Alliance Promoting Internationalization of Penghu’ is pushing for a referendum, driving a campaign to gather signatures from atleast 5 percent of total eligible voters in the island, as this is the minimum percentage required to send a petition to the election committee asking for a referendum. The campaign needs to collect signatures from at least 4,113 voters as the island has a total of 82,269 eligible voters.

In the event that the required signatures are gathered by next month, the alliance has said that the election committee would be able to hold the referendum in June. According to the head of the alliance, Chen Meng, the group is confident that it can gather at least 6,000 signatures by then, making the referendum a strong possibility.

Local media reports state that the current ruling party, which is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is strongly in favor of a new referendum. The office of alliance is located at the election headquarters of Chen Kuang-fu who is the head of the Penghu county and a member of the DPP. The final decision on the issue however rests with the central government of Taiwan.

The Parliament in Taiwan is yet to approve a bill proposing to legalize casino gambling in the country. The draft bill was introduced in 2014 and sought to allow casinos in the country’s smaller islands to boost tourism. The bill has seen no progress after the country voted in Tsai Ing-wen as its new President in 2015. Tsai Ing-wen is known to be against gambling and was instrumental in gathering support for opposing casinos in Penghu’s earlier referendum.

Market analysts also hold that the success of Taiwan’s gaming industry depends to a large extent on the stance taken by China on permitting its citizens to visit Taiwan’s outlying Islands and indulge themselves in casino gaming. Chinese government officials have said last year that Chinese nationals will be not be allowed to travel to Taiwan’s islands for gambling if the casinos were approved.

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