Mon, Jul 09, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Long road to go before casino: minister

LACK OF EVERYTHING:The minister of the interior said there was not enough water, fuel or power in Matsu for an influx of tourists, and the police forces were understaffed as well

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Plans show what Da-aoshan on Beigan Island in the Matsu archipelago may look like after a planned casino is built there.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Although Matsu residents have voted in a referendum to allow the construction of a casino in their island county, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said that there was still a long way to go before the first casino resort could be opened in Matsu, because neither the local nor the central government is ready for it.

In a referendum on Saturday, Matsu residents voted 1,795 to 1,341 in favor of approving construction of a casino resort.

Lee yesterday said that Matsu’s road to opening a casino resort was filled with obstacles, despite Weidner Resorts Taiwan’s promises.

“Both central and local governments are not ready for it,” he said. “For example, water is scarce. It may be sufficient for the thousands of residents now, but where would the extra water come from when tens of thousands of visitors come to Matsu?”

Besides water shortages, Lee said that Matsu also suffers from shortages of fuel and electricity, as well as a lack of good transportation infrastructure.

“Of course, resources could be supplied from China due to its proximity, but many parts of Matsu are still restricted military zones, so this may further complicate the issue,” the minister said.

In addition to a shortage of resources, Lee said there was also a shortage of manpower to maintain security when the casino resort opens.

“We already have a serious shortage of manpower in our police force; maintaining security in Matsu when there’s a casino resort could make the situation worse,” Lee said.

“Basically, Matsu is a safe place right now, so local police are not familiar with public security maintenance when there’s a casino, and since Matsu may be the first place in the country with a legal casino, the National Police Agency is not familiar with maintaining security in a casino town either,” Lee added.

Citing the examples of casino resorts in other countries, Lee said there were successes, but also failures.

“In the US, there are casinos in almost all Indian reserve areas, but how many of them see good business? It’s hard to say,” he said.

Lee said an inter-ministerial meeting on the casino issue is scheduled to take place today that representatives from the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministry of Justice would attend.

“We’ll see what we can conclude from the meeting,” Lee said. “At the moment, it hasn’t been decided which ministry should be in charge of casinos.”

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