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Taiwan – Taiwan to welcome casinos by 2017

By - 20 February 2013

The latest reports out of Taiwan suggest that a casino resort on Matsu, one of the outlying island chains, could be fully operational towards the end of 2017 with the Ministry looking to select qualified investors by the end of 2014.

Yeh Kuang-shih, Minister of Transportation and Communications, revealed that a draft proposal has been presented and that the Executive Yuan has been mulling over legislative changes to the Offshore Islands Development Act to address the development of a casino resort on the island. Residents in  Matsu voted 57 per cent to 43 per cent in favour of casino gambling back in July this year. The vote attracted a turnout rate of 40 per cent from its population of 10,000.

According to the Offshore Islands Development Act, offshore islands can only establish a casino if it is part of an international resort.

Administrative Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications, Chen Chien-yu admitted that Taiwan does not have any expertise in opening casinos, saying that the government will turn to international investors to oversee the project. Several operators fitting the bill are showing interest in the project including resort developer Weidner Resorts Taiwan, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts.

According to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, a casino licence can only be issued once the rest of the resort has been developed. It will include other attractions rather than just a gaming floor.

He also said the opportunity of the project becoming a joint venture partnership between Taiwan and mainland China is dependent on the company who wins the bid.

The government said it would take NT$1 from every NT$5,000 that the casino earns to fund  a foundation to research problem gambling. Anyone with a criminal record will be banned from investing. An idea put forward by Hon Hai Chairman Terry Gou to open a casino in New Taipei or other parts of northern Taiwan on the main island will not go ahead as the government will not revise its legislation to allow it.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah said it would be some time before gaming zones can be established on Taiwan rather than just its outlying islands.

Mr. Gou is one of Taiwan richest businessmen. He believes Taiwan should mirror the example of Las Vegas and set up one special casino area with convention and exhibition facilities in the Danshuei district of New Taipei to boost the economy.
The concept was welcomed by Weidner Resorts with Julia Lee, Vice President of Weidner’s Taiwan Development, saying the development of such a project in New Taipei would not be problematic for a casino sector on the outlying islands.

Weidner Resorts Taiwan wants to invest US$2bn in a casino resort on the Matsu archipelago which would see it upgrading airports and other infrastructure necessary to realize the project.

“As a gaming expert, I’m confident of turning Matsu into a successful casino resort after those we built in Macau and Singapore,” Bill Weidner, the former COO of Las Vegas Sands said. “Taiwanese make 1.2m visits to Macau and contribute between NT$600m and NT$900m in tourism revenue” to the Chinese Special Administrative Region a year. That money could stay in Taiwan if it had its own casino resort.”

He predicted the resort would draw millions of visitors from Taiwan and also Wenzhou and Fuzhou on China’s coast.

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