Sat, Feb 23, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Keelung eyeing offshore casino

PROPOSAL FLOATED:Local officials said that a casino resort on Keelung Islet could be completed quickly and relatively inexpensively, with no legislative headaches

By Lu Hsien-hsiu, Tsai Yi-hsuan, and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

The Keelung City Government is hoping to boost tourism and revive the local economy by building a casino resort, officials said, adding that the best location would be a nearby island.

Such a plan would require major investment and city officials are inviting Hon Hai Group chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘) to become a part of the project, which aims to establish a casino on Keelung Islet (基隆嶼), which is 4.9km to the northeast of the northern coastal city.

City officials are planning a floating casino by building breakwater jetties and docking a decommissioned cruise ship on the islet.

“The casino will be the closest venue for people in northern Taiwan and can be built in a short time,” a city official said. “If Terry Gou agrees to invest in the project, construction of the casino can be completed in three years.”

Keelung City Councilor Lu Mei-ling (呂美玲) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supported the proposal, saying that if Gou collaborates on the project, it would be a major boost for the city’s tourism sector.

However, some other councilors said that Keelung Islet does not have enough land available for further development, so the planning phase of the project would require careful thought.

Last week, Gou had suggested that a casino complex should be built in Tamsui (淡水), New Taipei City (新北市).

However, government regulations only permit gaming resorts to be sited on outlying islands. As such, officials at the Keelung City Transportation and Tourism Bureau said that Keelung Islet is the most suitable site for exploring collaborative development of an offshore casino.

Deputy head of the bureau Wang Ying-che (王英哲) said that Keelung Islet has only a small harbor and so breakwater jetties would need to be built.

“The designated area will be rezoned as an ‘International Tourism and Vacation Sector’ to allow docking of a decommissioned cruise ship. We know that such vessels are usually equipped with guest accommodation, recreational facilities, venue space for meetings, shopping centers and also a casino,” Wang said.

“Therefore the floating casino proposal conforms to current regulations on offshore casino locations and would also not face problems regarding public safety,” he said.

Wang said the relevant land on Keelung Islet is under the administration of the Keelung City Government.

“The site has existing buildings and other constructions which are legally approved, and thus no amendment to the law is required,” he said.

“To develop the islet for the casino does not require any changes to city revitalization plans. So there are no legal problems and the project can be completed quickly with a minimum of investment,” Wang added.

The islet covers 22 hectares. It was once a military training zone with civilian access prohibited. It was opened up in 2001, allowing people to reach it by boat, and the islet was turned into a tourist park in 2002.

There are public ferry services to the islet, with the journey taking between 20 and 30 minutes. Services depart from Keelung Harbor’s yacht docks and also from the Bisha (碧砂) fishing port.

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who was in Keelung on Thursday to attend ceremonies at several temples, said that under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s administration there have been almost no major construction or development projects in Keelung in recent years.

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