The results of Taiwan’s recently held elections could mean trouble for the country’s prospects of gaming expansion.
Over the weekend, nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen won by a landslide to become Taiwan’s first female president. This is also the first time DPP will control the presidency and the legislature, taking over the reins from the pro-China Koumintang (MKT) or Nationalist Party, which has ruled Taiwan for the past eight years.
Tsai has been vocal about her anti-gaming stance during the recent election cycle, and in 2009, she even went as far as employing DPP’s strengths in grassroots organizing to defeat the proposal of building a casino in the island of Penghu.
Meanwhile, the change in leadership has already drawn the ire of Beijing, which in an editorial carried by official Xinhua news agency, said “the DPP’s return rule poses grave challenges to cross-Strait relations.”
MKT’s eight-year rule has resulted in a lukewarm cross-Strait relationship, with Beijing easing its travel restrictions to allow more mainland Chinese to visit Taiwan. In 2015, however, Xinhua noted that “mainland authorities have ruled out the possibility of its citizens being allowed to gamble in Taiwan” after reports revealed that the country is looking to start developing casino facilities on its outlying islands, including Penghu.
This has led industry experts to believe that the recent elections will have negative implications for Taiwan’s gaming expansion plans.
Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen said the best good news is that the new legislature may finally create an integrated resort (IR) legislation, but the bad news is that the first IR could be at least five years away.
And even in the event that the legislature finally passes a casino bill—to decriminalize casino gaming and form a regulatory body—and an IR bill, Govertsen believes the “Macau Big 6 would find the prospects of developing an IR in Taiwan to be unpalatable for both political and economic reasons.”
“Like the current RFP in South Korea, we don’t expect the Macau Big 6 to participate in a Taiwan RFP for three important reasons: 1) given that policy is so important in driving the future of Macau, none would dare risk raising the ire of Beijing, 2) the calculus has changed as the current (and future) Chinese VIP story is radically different that years past, and 3) the explicit forbidding of mainlanders to gamble in Taiwan (if true) would result in the one-two punch of both a weak demand story and upsetting Beijing,” Govertsen said in a note.