Developer urges passage of gaming bills

Staff writer, with CNA, MANILA

Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - Page 3

An international resort developer who plans to build a resort featuring a casino on Matsu said he looks forward to seeing Taiwan pass gaming laws soon to facilitate the launch of his project.

Weidner Resorts chairman and CEO William Weidner made the remarks while attending the opening of Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila Bay in the Philippines on Saturday as one of the US$1 billion casino resort’s investors.

Weidner said he has a deep affinity with Matsu, which lies closer to China than to Taiwan proper.

In an interview, Weidner said he had visited all of the five islets that form the Matsu island chain to meet with their residents.

Weidner said he understands Matsu residents’ urgent need for a well-devised airport, bridges connecting the islands and a university.

If his company wins the bid to build a casino resort in Matsu, Weidner said the firm would keep its promise to allocate US$2.5 billion to develop infrastructure in the area.

Weidner said he hopes that anti-gambling activists will not reject dialogue and will listen to the opinions of Matsu residents.

Weidner said that Taiwanese made 3.6 million visits to overseas casinos last year, of which 1.2 million trips were to Macau and 500,000 to South Korea.

If the Matsu casino resort project is realized, Weidner said it would create 70,000 jobs and make Matsu as prosperous as Macau.

He urged the government to send draft gaming bills to the Legislative Yuan to be reviewed and approved as soon as possible to pave the way for the project.

Earlier this year, Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), who was then minister of transportation and communications, said the ministry had drafted a package of statutes to regulate casinos and govern their operations.

If enacted, the draft bills would pave the way for casinos to operate in tourist resorts under strict regulations that would require casinos to offer benefits to the community and not negatively affect public order or the environment, Mao said.

The package comprises two bills: one to regulate the management and operations of casinos and the other to lay the foundation for the establishment of an agency to regulate and administer casinos, the former minister said.

Once the two bills clear the legislature, an affiliated bill drafted by the Tourism Bureau on qualifications for setting up international casino resorts would then be referred to the Legislative Yuan for approval, Mao said.