New survey shows tentative support for Penghu casinos

STAFF WRITER

Tue, Feb 25, 2003 - Page 4

Around two-thirds of the people in Taiwan are in favor of the establishment of casinos in Penghu, according to the latest opinion poll released yesterday by the Ministry of the Interior.

Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) said that if holiday resorts operating casinos are required to pay a certain amount of money to benefit social security, education and the development of offshore islands, 65 percent of the poll's respondents agreed to the legalization of gambling in the Penghu archipelago, while 22 percent of them were opposed to the idea.

According to the survey, if the National Police Administration steps up its anti-crime and anti-gun efforts, then 61 percent of respondent agreed to the building of casinos while 26 percent were opposed. Respondents associated both crime and gun use with casinos.

The debate -- both within and without the government -- over whether Penghu should use gambling to boost its sagging economy has been raging for more than five years.

Yu said the top three reasons why the respondents support the casino idea are: legalized gambling could help the local government's finances, casinos create jobs and casinos would provide recreation venues.

Those who frown upon the idea of turning Penghu into a miniature Las Vegas or Atlantic City said they worry that legalized gambling might cause social problems, destroy good customs and tarnish Penghu's reputation as a desirable place for families to visit.

Some respondents also cited their lack of confidence in the government's management capability as the main reason for their opposition to legalizing and establishing casinos.

Asked whether the poll -- conducted by academic institutions -- is evidence that society has reached a consensus on the controversial issue, Yu said the survey has nothing to do with either his ministry's stance or that of the Cabinet and would be used only for reference.