Penghu urges new administration to honor casino pledge

BETTING BOOST: The idea of building casinos in Penghu has long been entertained as a way to reverse the islands' decline and boost tourist numbers


Sat, May 24, 2008 - Page 3

Citing its logistical advantages and a well-developed infrastructure, the Penghu County Government urged the new administration yesterday to make good on its pledge to permit casinos on the outlying island.

“We are ready for the casinos,” Penghu County Commissioner Wang Chien-fa (王乾發) said, adding that the island chain, with its location in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, had the potential to become a major shipping and tourism hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

At a meeting yesterday with industry leaders, Wang said the county hoped to exploit the introduction of the casinos to develop a more comprehensive tourist destination that could have the capacity to transform Penghu’s fishing industry into a means to boost tourist numbers still further.

“We have strong infrastructure and plots of public land that are ready for the construction of casinos,” Wang said.

“Owing to these efforts, our islands are beginning to attract investment,” he said.

Wang added that a couple of five-star hotels were expected to be opened in the near future.

Wang believed that the casinos would bring increased commercial opportunities for local residents in Penghu, which is generally seen as lagging economically compared to counties in Taiwan proper.

He said Penghu’s harbors, for example, have the potential to become international-quality.

Wang also said that Penghu has the lowest crime rate in the nation.

“Such a safe environment is very good for investors,” he said.

Many counties in the nation are vying to host the casinos, should gaming be legalized. The idea of building casinos in Penghu to help boost the county’s economic development has long been entertained as a way to reverse the islands’ decline and keep gambling away from Taiwan proper.

Some 57 percent of Penghu’s residents backed the idea in a referendum in 2003 that was just as notable for its low 21 percent turnout.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) promised during his “thank you” tour of Penghu on April 9 that once residents had reached a consensus on the casino issue, the central government would help facilitate the development after the related regulations were passed by the legislature.

Penghu attracts about 500,000 tourists a year, mostly from Taiwan proper, officials from the Penghu County Tourism Bureau said.