Tue, Jul 10, 2012 - Page 13 News List

Weidner seeks rapid approval of Matsu casino

BUILDING THE FUTURE:Weidner Resorts plans to spend NT$30 billion on a giant casino resort with 2,000 hotel rooms and other recreational facilities

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Weidner Resorts Taiwan chairman William Weidner and his team yesterday hold a press conference in Taipei to introduce their plans for a casino resort on Matsu.

Photo: Lin Cheng-kung, Taipei Times

Weidner Resorts Taiwan, a company run by Venetian Casino Resort chief executive Bill Weidner, said yesterday it planned to invest about NT$60 billion (US$2 billion) to build a casino resort on the Matsu archipelago and upgrade 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,” Weidner told a media briefing in Taipei.

He urged the legislature to speed up casino legislation, in line with the wishes of the majority of Matsu residents.

Weidner, former chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp, made the plea after Matsu residents on Saturday voted in a referendum in favor of allowing casino resorts to boost economic development on the outlying island group.

Weidner said his company would spend NT$12 billion upgrading the airport in Beigan (北竿) from its current 2C classification to 3C, so that it would be able to accommodate larger aircraft and have fewer abortive flights caused by seasonal thick fog.

“I don’t see any problems that cannot be solved by modern technology,” he said.

Weidner Resorts Taiwan, which would have to win the bid for the development project once the legislature gives its go-ahead, aims to spend NT$30 billion establishing a giant casino resort with 2,000 hotel rooms, shopping malls, international conference centers, theme parks and other recreational facilities, Weidner said.

The planned investment would provide between 3,500 and 5,000 permanent jobs, in addition to work opportunities in transportation and related sectors, he said.

The developer also plans to build a university with a focus on cultivating talent in the hospitality industry and studying cross-strait relations, at a budget of NT$3 billion, Weidner said.

Weidner, whose company helped pitch the gaming referendum, said the resort would draw millions of visitors from Taiwan proper and China’s coastal cities such as Wenzhou and Fuzhou.

“Taiwanese make 1.2 million visits to Macau and contribute between NT$600 million and NT$900 million in tourism revenue” to the Chinese Special -Administrative -Region a year,” he said. “That money could stay in Taiwan if it had its own casino resort.”

Matsu residents could enjoy generous benefits, including tax and other compensation equivalent to NT$80,000 per month per person if the casino resort meets growth targets as forecast, Weidner said.

Weidner, who failed in pushing through a casino referendum in Penghu years ago, said he would be patient, but added he could not wait forever.

“I would say one year is reasonable, but that doesn’t mean the company will pull out if the legislation takes longer,” he said. “We cannot wait forever. There are other investment opportunities elsewhere.”

Only 5 percent of the planned resort would be devoted to gaming facilities, Weidner added.

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