Minister expects casino regulations by end of the year

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Jul 10, 2009 - Page 3

Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said yesterday that regulations governing the operation of casinos would be in place by the end of the year.

“[Casinos] are a means of boosting tourism in the outlying islands,” Mao said on the first day of a two-day cross-­departmental seminar on policymaking yesterday.

The minister said establishing casinos could have “side effects,” which is why “we need to have complementary measures ready when we execute the policy.”

The government is planning to issue two casino licenses in Penghu County, with the county scheduled to hold a referendum on the subject.

Mao said gaming is a new business and could pose a real challenge to civil servants, which was why the seminar could help representatives from different government agencies prepare themselves as policymakers.

The minister said all government agencies involved in the gaming business had to complete all personnel training and overseas visits this summer so that they could start drafting the main law on casinos.

Commenting on the changes needed, Mao cited police officers as an example, saying they were trained to crack down on gambling but now had to learn how to protect legal gambling.

He said the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspections also had to establish a certification mechanism for equipment used in gambling. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) had to ensure that casino operators are not involved in organized crime or international money-­laundering, while the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) had to draft plans to train local workers in the gaming business.

Aside from the CLA and the MOJ, representatives from the Financial Supervisory Commission, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications also attended the seminar.

When asked how government employees were supposed to regulate casinos if they did not even know how to play blackjack or poker, Mao said that the ministry’s task was to draft laws to oversee the operation of casinos and coordinate efforts among different government agencies.

“Our job is to create an equal and fair environment for gamblers,” he said, describing the job as more like “work behind the scenes of a play.”

While more than 100 government department officials had signed up to take what Mao described as a “three-credit course,” only about 70 attended the seminar.

Mao said the nation should follow the example set by Singapore, where casinos are part of the recreational facilities offered in hotel resorts. There should also be restrictions on the space allocated to gambling establishments, he said.