Taipei Times: What benefits can casinos bring to Penghu?
Michael Treanor (MT): I think that casino gaming is going to be an important stimulus to economic activity in Taiwan in general, but very specifically in Penghu County. It will be the catalyst that spurs significant development. The real intent here is an integrated resort. We anticipate the developments will have many different amenities to them: recreational, shopping, dining, etc. So it will become a very desirable destination for families and tourists, not only from Taiwan, but also internationally.
Carl Burger (CB): In many cases other developments actually eclipse what happens in the casinos. Take Las Vegas as an example. Casinos are not the driving reason why many, many people go to Las Vegas. They go there for many of the other facilities. The phrase “integrated resort” was coined in Singapore. What it essentially means is a hotel with many facilities outside of the casino environment. The casino is the anchor tenant and if you move beyond that, you’ve got all the outside interests that begin to form around it. You’ve got condominium potential, you’ve got suppliers, not only to the hotels, but to the other resort facilities. They will start to develop. In terms of the finance world, that then becomes more open to financing other businesses in the immediate environment. In this particular case that’s Penghu.
Probably one of the closest examples we could give is Paradise Island in the Bahamas, which is just offshore. [South African gambling magnate Solomon] Kerzner went in there and he bought the Paradise Island Atlantis Resort and made a huge difference to the whole island.
TT: The gaming legislation may have passed, but now everything depends on a referendum (tentatively set for April or May). There is a lot of opposition from religious, social and environmental groups. Are you optimistic the referendum will gain enough support?
MT: Whenever a gaming initiative is introduced there’s always opposition. Oftentimes it’s misinformed people thinking that with gaming may come social evils. But that is not always the case. It has been the case in certain circumstances, but not if done right. We think that Taiwan, which is following the Singapore model for development of integrated resorts, is approaching it from a very responsible manner, which is to make them family friendly and not make gaming the centerpiece. The development will bring thousands of jobs to a fairly impoverished part of Taiwan, so we don’t see how it’s anything but good. Sure, there will be opposition, there already has been and we expect to address the opponents in a responsible manner.
CB: It is our understanding that two previous referendums went through. There have also been a number of polls and in actual fact we did our own survey just over a year ago and it was well in favor of having gaming. There’s a place for the opposition because they’re the guys that keep everybody honest.
TT: The Council for Economic Planning and Development Chairman Chen Tian-jy (陳添枝) said on Jan. 13 that potential developers must be multinational corporations with huge capital. Does AMZ, as a relatively new and small company, qualify? And how confident are you that AMZ will win one of the two or three licenses on offer?
MT: It’s likely we won’t qualify under those standards, notwithstanding that we have extensive gaming development and operational expertise. Being realistic, it’s likely Taiwan is going to want a name brand operator for its first few casinos. So for that reason, we will be in discussions with major international operators because we think the winning bidder will both need land to build on as well as a marquee operator. What we’re committed to doing is assembling a package that has a marquee operator and a piece of land that is ready to go and meeting any other criteria as best we can. We know what we are and we would expect an international operator to step in and handle operation of the resort.