Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 4 News List

US official shares experience on costs of gambling

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Shih Chao-hui, convener of the Coalition Against Gambling Legalization in Taiwan, left, introduces Timothy Kelly, executive director of the US Congressional National Gambling Impact Study Commission, center, at a press conference in Taipei yesterday to protest against proposals to set up casinos on Penghu.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Anti-gambling activists yesterday highlighted the negative impact of casinos and criticized the government for proceeding to hold a referendum on the issue before conducting a cost-benefit analysis.

“Before a legislature passes a gambling initiative, they need to study the issue first. They need to do their due diligence. They need to have an objective cost-benefit analysis before voting on whether to legalize gambling,” Timothy Kelly, executive director of the US Congressional National Gambling Impact Study Commission, told a press conference in Taipei. “Otherwise, they don’t know what they are heading into because they don’t have the information they need.”

Kelly was invited by the Coalition Against Gambling Legalization in Taiwan to brief members of the media on the Commission Report to Congress and the President conducted by the commission in 1999.

The invitation came in the wake of an upcoming plebiscite scheduled for Saturday next week among Penghu residents on whether to allow casinos on the island.

Kelly said Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan did not conduct such an analysis before legalizing casinos in the nation’s outlying islands on Jan. 12.

“That means your legislators are not performing their due diligence and that means you people who are about to vote don’t have the information you need,” he said.

Kelly said the benefits of legalizing gambling were usually exaggerated.

“When you talk about the tax income and the jobs that will be produced, they will probably be significantly less than what is implied,” he said. “Probably most gamblers will come from Taiwan rather than from other countries because places like Macau have captured the international gambling market.”

Kelly said the commission’s report also found that gambling addicts tended to be engaged in “destructive behaviors,” including crime, suicide and amassing a large amount debt.

He said other “costs” such as money-laundering and politicians’ reliance on donations from the gambling industry could also arise.

Green Party Taiwan ­Secretary-General Pan Han-sheng (潘翰聲) said that while anti-corruption had become a hot issue in Taiwan, the government should voice its opposition to gambling before promoting the idea of anti-corruption.

Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hui (釋昭慧), convener of the coalition, said the activists hoped to visit President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Control Yuan President Wang Chien-hsien on Friday and have Kelly present analyses of the costs of gambling to the two high-ranking officials.

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