Taiwan’s Kinmen referendum emphatically rejects casino plans


taiwan-kinmen-casino-referendumResidents of Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen islands have emphatically rejected a proposal to authorize casino gambling.

Kinmen residents went to the polls on Saturday to express their opinion on a proposal to establish an “international holiday resort complex” that would dedicate 5% of its physical space to casino gambling. The vote was made possible when casino supporters obtained the signatures of 5% of Kinmen County’s eligible voters.

According to figures released by the Kinmen County Election Commission, turnout was a disappointing 24%, but nearly 90% of these votes were cast to reject the casino plan. The lopsided result would seem to put the kibosh on any future efforts to authorize casino gambling, at least in the short term.

In 2009, Taiwan’s national government authorized the construction of casinos in the country’s outlying islands, provided local residents approved the plans via referendums. Two previous referendums in the Penghu islands also rejected casino proposals by similarly large margins.

Numerous factors contributed to the lack of casino enthusiasm, including the fact that the one favorable casino referendum vote – in the Matsu island group in 2012 – was never followed up with the implementation of casino regulations by Taiwan’s national government.

There’s been scant interest from major international casino operators in establishing a presence in Taiwan’s outlying islands due to a lack of critical infrastructure, which would add hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars to the already huge cost of integrated resort development.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, there’s the question of where the casinos’ customers could come from, given the harsh line drawn by China regarding the ability of its citizens traveling to Taiwan – the independence of which Beijing has never recognized – for gambling purposes.

Chinese state-run media in Fujian province, which lies just across the Taiwan Strait, published anti-gambling op-eds on the eve of Saturday’s referendum, strongly suggesting that Beijing wasn’t bluffing when it made threats to impose broad trade restrictions on Taiwan if it approved casinos on its outlying islands.