Tue, Sep 22, 2009 - Page 3 News List

DPP urges Penghu vote ‘no’ to casinos

ISLAND REFERENDUM Legislator Chen Chieh-ju rebutted the Penghu County Government’s claims that casinos would bring prosperity by citing statistics from Las Vegas

By Loa Iok-iok and Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Buddhist nuns protest outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei yesterday as part of a demonstration against the government’s lifting of decades-old ban on casinos, which critics claim may turn Taiwan into a ”republic of casinos.” The Penghu County Government will hold a referendum on Saturday on the building of casinos in Penghu.

PHOTO: PATRICK LIN, AFP

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged the party’s supporters yesterday to vote “no” in the casino referendum scheduled to be held in Penghu on Saturday.

The legislature passed amendments to the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例) in January that would allow construction of casinos on the islands if more than 50 percent of local residents agree to the plan in a referendum.

“The DPP made it very clear before the casino amendment to the Offshore Islands Development Act was passed in January because the potential threat that large casino resorts will have to Penghu’s ecosystem,” Tsai told a news conference at party headquarters.

“Now we urge all our supporters to vote ‘no’ in the casino referendum,” she said.

Tourism in Penghu should be developed in a sustainable way by focusing on the island’s rich culture and diverse ecosystem.

“Only large casino resorts, not ordinary Penghu residents, would benefit from the construction of casinos,” Tsai said.

She also voiced concern that if Penghu develops casino-centered tourism, casino groups might eventually control local politics and economy, as shown by what happened in Macau showed.

DPP Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如) rebutted claims by the Penghu County Government that casinos could bring prosperity to the county by creating 25,000 jobs and attracting 5 million visitors a year.

“If we look closely at Las Vegas, it’s clear that the county government is lying,” Chen said.

Citing figures from last year, Chen said there were 266 casinos in Las Vegas, with more than 22,000 employees and attracting nearly 51.6 million visitors. The net income of the casinos totaled about US$1.1 billion, generating around US$925 million in taxes for the Nevada state government, she said.

“There are 266 casinos in Las Vegas, but Penghu will only have two,” Chen said. “If we calculate the number of visitors based on Las Vegas’ example, Penghu will only have 380,000 visitors per year. Where did the county government get 5 million?”

Even the biggest casino in Las Vegas only has between 8,500 and 9,000 employees, she said, adding: “I don’t see how two casinos would create 25,000 jobs.”

Based on the Las Vegas example, “the county government would only get about NT$900 million [US$27 million] in taxes a year from the two casinos, which means that each of the 95,146 residents could be allocated about NT$946 a year,” Chen said.

Meanwhile, the Anti-gambling Legislation Alliance held a demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice yesterday to protest Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng’s (王清峰) comment in the legislature last week that a Penghu prosecutor’s remarks against casinos were “inappropriate.”

She was referring to Penghu District Prosecutor Wu Hsun-lung.

The alliance said Wang’s comments, not Wu’s, were inappropriate because they were made before she had carefully evaluated the situation. The alliance brought with them a letter from Wu to the minister, in which the prosecutor said he would rather give up her job than agree to casino resorts in Penghu.

Tsai Rei-tsong (蔡瑞宗), director of the ministry’s Department of Prosecutorial Affairs, accepted the alliance’s petition.

Tsai said the ministry would respect Wu’s right to freedom of speech if Wu was making the comments in his personal capacity. However, if Wu was commenting on the casino issue as a prosecutor, this was something the ministry would frown upon.

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