Anti-gambling activists yesterday condemned Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers for attempts to change the law and allow casinos to be built in Taiwan proper, adding that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has broken its promise that casinos would be established on outlying islands first.
The current draft of regulations presented by the Executive Yuan for the management of casino resorts (觀光賭場管理條例) only lists the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例) as the legal basis for the establishment of casinos.
However, KMT Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) has proposed to expand this legal basis by adding the phrase “and other relevant acts” in the first article of the draft.
KMT Legislator Chen Ken-te (陳根德) also proposed amending the International Airport Park Development Act (國際機場園區發展條例) to allow casinos to be built within the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project, an urban planning development surrounding the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Chen, one of the two presiding chairpersons at the legislature’s Transportation Committee, is scheduled to host a public hearing on the proposed amendments on Wednesday. Meanwhile, lawmakers in the transportation, economics and judiciary committees are scheduled to have a joint review session for the proposed amendments.
Buddhist master Shih Chao-hwei (釋昭慧) said the government has always wanted to have casinos built in Taiwan proper and not on the outlying islands. She also said that the Offshore Islands Development Act was nothing but hype.
“The airport must maintain security at all times, and any accident taking place at an international airport could potentially be turned into an international event,” Shih said. “Crimes happen both inside and outside casinos, and I would condemn the Ma administration if it allows casino resorts to be built there. Where does he stand on airport security? Is the government building the Taoyuan Aerotropolis just so that they can build casinos?”
Shih added that although the Singaporean government imposed a casino entrance fee of SGD$100 (US$80) to prevent the city-state’s citizens from entering casinos, Singapore has seen an increase in gambling addiction.
She said that the gambling industry had affected not only Singaporeans, but also low-income foreign laborers who hold foreign passports and are able to gamble.
Gary Yeh (葉智魁), a professor in the department of tourism, recreation and leisure studies at National Dong Hwa University, said the government kept saying it is following Singapore’s casino business model, as if that was a perfect example. The truth is, he said, that the Singaporean government does not disclose some crucial statistics that would show the actual state of affairs since casinos were opened in 2009.
The Singaporean government decided to raise penalties for the nation’s two casinos from NT$24 million (US$800,000) to NT$17.4 billion following a series of violations of government regulations. Taiwan, on the other hand, has planned for maximum fines of NT$15 million, he said.
While Singapore saw GDP growth of 14.9 percent in 2010, Yeh said, the country’s GDP growth fell to 4.9 percent in 2011 and 1.3 percent last year. This shows that having a casino does not necessarily lead to economic growth.
Though the Singaporean government hoped to attract more international visitors with its casions, Yeh said statistics showed that the casinos received most of their revenue from Singaporeans, which was exactly the scenario the Singaporean government had tried to avoid.
Yeh also said draft regulations governing the management of casino resorts would allow the establishments to keep 86 percent of their revenue, with central and local governments sharing the remaining 14 percent. He said that the draft act was corporate-friendly, as it sets a very low tax rate for casino backers.
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