Islanders vote to allow Taiwan's first casino

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am


Residents of the Matsu islands voted in favour yesterday of opening Taiwan's first legal casino.

Nearly 60 per cent of Matsu residents, a total of 1,795, voted 'yes' in a referendum.

A total of 1,341 voted against the move and 28 cast invalid votes, according to Yang Sui-sheng, head of Matsu county, local media reported.

He said that 40 per cent of voters took part in the referendum.

Matsu is just 8 kilometres from Fuzhou , the capital city of Fujian province, and was one of the front-line battlefields when Mao Zedong tried to 'liberate' Taiwan in the 1950s and 1970s.

Taiwan had been ruled by Mao's foe Chiang Kai-shek, who fled to the island after his Kuomintang army was defeated by Mao in 1949.

Yang said it was planned to build the casino on the same site as Matsu's most famous monument - the War Peace Memorial Park. He said investors from the US, Hong Kong and Macau had already visited Matsu to inspect the site.

But he said the county could not start operating a casino for at least two years as a bill regulating gambling still required the approval of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Some leaders from the ruling Kuomintang and opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have expressed fears over the bill.

And many young Matsu locals who work in Taipei and other cities on the main Taiwan Island returned home yesterday to try to persuade relatives to cast opposing votes.

Wang Chien-shien, president of Taiwan's Control Yuan, said: 'It will be a disaster to offspring of Matsu people if the referendum of gambling is passed. Matsu is an unsophisticated and beautiful place, but it will become a Sodom in the coming future.'

The county government has said a casino would help attract investors and tourists, bringing in much-needed funds to Matsu to improve its economy and infrastructure.

Residents of another offshore island, Penghu, voted against hosting gambling facilities in 2009.