The head of the Control Yuan expressed firm opposition on Thursday to a proposal allowing casinos on the nation’s outlying islands.
Penghu County will hold a referendum next Saturday on whether casinos should be allowed in the county under legislation enacted on Jan. 12.
Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien (王建煊) said that if a majority vote “yes,” it would mark the beginning of calamity for Penghu.
“Someday you will regret your choice and cry over the decision you made,” Wang said.
Wang pointed an accusatory finger at the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated legislature, blasting it as an “initiator of evil” for passing an amendment to the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例) that legalizes the operation of casinos on Taiwan’s islands, but requires that referendums be held to obtain the approval of local residents.
The Control Yuan president made the remarks during a meeting at his office with a group of activists who vehemently oppose the casino referendum.
The group, led by the Taiwan Anti-Gambling Alliance, asked the Control Yuan to probe the legality of the entire issue, saying that the government was asking local residents to vote in the referendum before any measures to handle the possible outcome have been arranged or implemented.
The referendum results will be binding if there is a majority “yes” vote. Various surveys have shown that a majority of Penghu residents support building casinos as a way to boost the county’s flagging economy.
The Penghu County Government held a county-wide referendum in 2003 on whether casinos should be allowed in Penghu, but only 13,814 residents, or 21 percent, of those eligible to vote actually did so. Of those who cast their votes, 12 percent favored the plan, while 9 percent opposed it.
A poll conducted in the Penghu area in May this year by Chiayi County’s Toko University found that 60 percent of respondents were in favor of allowing gambling.
Timothy Kelly, executive director of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, a US congressional and presidential commission, said he was surprised to be told that the Legislative Yuan had approved the legalization of gambling without conducting a cost-benefit analysis.
“Allowing gambling will have a cost in the fields of economy, society, politics and crime,” Kelly told Wang.
He claimed that if casinos are established on Penghu, the central government would have to spend a fortune in the future to help addicted gamblers kick their habit, as well as having to handle thorny issues like white-collar crime and money laundering.
Meanwhile, Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) of the Democratic Progressive Party told Wang that if casinos are built in Penghu, they should only be open to foreigners.
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