Petition for Penghu casino referendum reaches name goal

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Sun, Aug 02, 2009 - Page 3

Penghu County residents may soon decide whether to allow casinos, as the initiators of a referendum have collected a sufficient number of signatures to put it to a vote.

Penghu County Business Council president Lan Chun-yi (藍俊逸), who is also the acting speaker of the county assembly, said on Friday that the referendum initiators had collected 3,853 signatures and sent the petition to the county election commission for verification.

DEADLINE

The county government must hold a referendum within two months if the signatures are validated, he said.

Expecting that a referendum would be held next month, Lan said the county government sought a budget for the vote of NT$8 million (US$242,000), which should be approved by the county assembly next week.

Gambling has long been banned in Taiwan, but a law passed in January legalized casino gambling on outlying islands with the permission of residents, obtained through a referendum.

AT ODDS

Penghu’s business community is keen to bring casinos to the islands. Many of the county’s 93,000 residents, however, oppose the plan, fearing that gambling could bring criminal activity and other problems.

Businesspeople launched a signature drive in February to hold a referendum.

THE RULES

According to the Referendum Law (公民投票法), a county government referendum can only be held with the signatures of 5 percent or more of the voters who cast ballots in the last county commissioner election.

A total of 70,427 votes were cast in the 2005 commissioner election, meaning that at least 3,522 signatures were needed.

Tourism is an important source of revenue for Penghu, which consists of dozens of islands and islets.