Activists yesterday called on lawmakers to withdraw a proposed bill to legalize gambling, and put it out to a referendum.
The protesters also accused the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus of giving initial passage to the bill on Thursday without any discussion.
“Legalizing gambling is still a very controversial and divided issue, which means the Legislative Yuan should not adopt the bill without detailed discussion,” Alliance executive director Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳) told a news conference in the Legislative Yuan.
Ho said there are 114 articles in the proposed bill to legalize casinos on outlying islands, but KMT legislators moved it through the first review and forwarded it to cross-party negotiation in less than two minutes.
Democratic Progressive Party legislators left the meeting room “in protest,” leaving their KMT colleagues to decide to move the bill into the second-reading process.
“Besides condemning KMT legislators, lawmakers from the opposition deserve criticism for not doing enough to stop it,” Ho said.
He also questioned the presence of Lienchiang County Commissioner Yang Sui-sheng (楊綏生), who strongly supports legalizing gambling and is seeking to build a casino resort, known as Matsu (馬祖), in his constituency.
Ho questioned why Yang was permitted in the room, asking whether he had registered as a lobbyist as required under the law.
Chen Ming-li (陳明里), another anti-gambling activist, criticized the law itself, saying that the public and government authorities would receive little benefit from casinos.
“According to the proposed bill, we can see that the central and local governments collect taxes, but 86 percent of the revenue still goes to the casinos,” Chen said. “Legalizing casinos is essentially a way to benefit big corporates; not the public, as the government claims.”
Environmentalist Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) expressed concerns that casinos may get out of control and bring serious social problems if the legislature tries to pass the bill in what he called an “irresponsible” way.
“Whether to legalize casinos is a question that concerns the entire nation, therefore I urge the government to hold a referendum on this bill, so that Taiwanese can collectively make a decision,” he said. “After all, we don’t want the Republic of China to become the Republic of Casino.”