Casino bid involves choices as a society

By Wu Hsun-lung 吳巡龍  / 

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 8

Those in favor of opening casinos in Penghu County claim that gambling is the only way to boost the island’s tourism industry and help residents make money. But in fact, allowing the establishment of casinos will only profit a few casino investors and a few politicians and groups colluding with them and it is unlikely to improve the lives of residents.

Aside from running the gambling business, the casinos will also offer cheap food and entertainment to encourage customers to spend all their money in the casinos rather than outside.

Atlantic City, for example, allowed casinos in 1978. By 1992, 40 percent of restaurants and one-third of retailers in the city had closed down.

There was not even a supermarket or a movie theater left, and unemployment was double the average of all US states.

General business operators outside casinos in Las Vegas and Macao have suffered a similar fate.

The gambling industry deprives people of their wealth, and by doing so creates serious family and social problems. Although some people enjoy temporary stimulation of the five senses, this does not make up for the broken lives of others.

Nor will the government’s increased tax revenues from the casinos make up for the harm casinos will cause to society.

The social environment and culture in other countries differ from Taiwan.

Gambling could almost be said to be part of the Chinese character, and Taiwan does not have the social conditions for gambling that exist in other countries.

In addition, Taiwanese that go to casinos abroad are mostly rich people.

If we establish casinos in Penghu, they would inevitably attract clients from the middle and lower-class to spend lavishly and waste their hard-earned money.

This creates social problems, and it is still the general public that will suffer most.

The nature of the gambling industry and that of Penghu are diametrically opposed to each other.

The former allows the rich to spend extravagantly in a tense and exciting atmosphere; the latter is about the boundless sea, beaches, basalt pillars, and simple and honest residents.

What do we want to be Penghu’s local characteristic in future? If the next generation only wants to learn how to become card dealers at casinos, what kind of atmosphere would that be?

Penghu residents, or perhaps all of us, should try hard to turn our living environment into nature-friendly, lovely places suitable for people to live in.

Samso Island in Denmark is about the size of Penghu. Thanks to the abundance of wind power, the Danish have built wind-power generators to generate electricity to complement the energy supplied from the mainland.

Today, the island can even resell 20 percent of its energy.

Penghu is windy in winter, so wind power is suitable. It is sunny in summer, so thin-film solar cells are suitable. To overcome such seasonal changes, we should connect the island to the power supply networks in Taiwan.

By doing so, we can not only build a growth industry, but also greatly improve the international reputation of Penghu and boost the tourism industry.

This, without any doubt, is the path to follow, one that better reflects our values and that will ensure that everybody’s needs, rather than those of a few, will be met.

Wu Hsun-lung is a prosecutor in the Penghu District Prosecutors’ Office.

TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG