Looking to boost the local economy through “gaming tourism,” Matsu is organizing its first “Championship Battle for Mahjong King and Mahjong Queen” tournament next year.
Officials from the Lienchiang County Government’s Department of Tourism said they expected the competition to attract about 2,000 contestants, with the winner receiving a cash award of NT$1.5 million (US$51,370).
The mahjong competition is the headliner event to commence the “Year One of Matsu Gaming Tourism,” which will include other gambling games, sports and leisure activities, visits for military families and sightseeing around the island.
The announcement was made at a press briefing in Taipei, which also drew protesters from the Anti-Gambling Alliance, who demanded that the gambling industry be kept out of Matsu.
According to Matsu tourism officials, the mahjong tournament will take place in the sports arena of Nangan Township (南竿) on Matsu. The a registration fee is NT$1,000.
Interested contestants can sign up with companies licensed to operate tours on Matsu and are required to register for a “three-day, two-night” tour package, which costs between NT$5,000 and NT$8,400.
The competition will start with eight preliminary rounds in January. It will use the “Taiwanese-style 16-Tile Mahjong Game” rules, with the eight group-winners advancing to the final round. The tournament will also feature double-elimination rounds and wild cards, with the final championship scheduled for Feb. 3.
The total prize money is NT$2 million: Aside from the NT$1.5 million for the top winner, NT$150,000 will go to the person finishing second, NT$80,000 for third and fourth places, and NT$5,000 for those who make it into the final round of 48.
Lienchiang County Commissioner Yang Sui-sheng (楊綏生) said Matsu was a military battleground in the past, isolated from the outside world, with the locals relying on marine and air force transportations.
“To seek an economic way out for Matsu residents, tourism is the best choice. The people of Matsu have decided to improve the transportation links to the outside by seizing the opportunities offered by the gaming industry,” Yang said.