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Ministries shirk Matsu casino responsibility

The China Post--After Matsu (馬祖) residents voted in a referendum last Saturday to allow gaming (博弈) on their island, there has been a heated debate as to who should be in charge of regulating and supervising gaming enterprises on the island.

The Executive Yuan (行政院) invited heads and officials of various ministries to discuss related affairs yesterday afternoon. According to local reports, there is a good chance that the jurisdiction will fall into the lap of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC, 交通部), due to the fact that the gaming project is seen to be highly related to tourism and infrastructure planning. Sources have also indicated that the ministry will come up with a draft referencing Singapore's gaming regulations.

MOTC Minister Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said that the key issue is not “who” should be responsible; the most important thing is that whichever ministry or department the responsibility falls to should be given policing rights in order to supervise gaming enterprises on the island properly; otherwise, the gaming project will be a “catastrophe” regardless of who is in charge.

The Cabinet has appointed Ministers without Portfolio Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) and Yang Chiu-siung (楊秋興) as supervisors to the gaming project.

In addition to the MOTC and the Ministry of the Interior (內政部), the conference held by the Executive Yuan was also attended yesterday afternoon by officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs (經濟部), the Council for Economic Planning and Development (經建會), the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC, 金管會), the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (主計總處), and various finance-related governmental organizations.

Executive Yuan spokesman Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉) said that the responsibility of the gaming project must be shared between different ministries and departments within the government. For example, with regard to how gaming rules and betting odds should be set up, the spokesman indicated that the FSC would be better suited for the job. As to the construction of resorts, hotels and casinos on the island, the Public Construction Commission (工程會) and the Construction and Planning Agency (營建署) would be ideal candidates as supervisors, the spokesman said.

Minister without Portfolio Luo Ying-shay said yesterday that it would be inappropriate to use gaming regulations in Singapore as a reference for Taiwan, because Singapore is essentially a city-state without clear distinctions between local and central governing bodies. Since the gaming project was initiated by the Lienchiang County (連江縣) Government, local authorities should take the initiative in coming up with a proposal, Luo argued, adding that the central government has to allocate budgets and resources reasonably and fairly; therefore, the central government cannot be expected to provide unlimited resources to the county government; local authorities should shoulder some of the responsibility by coming up with their own solutions.

According to local reports, the MOTC is planning to prohibit citizens under the age of 21 from entering casinos. The ministry is also planning to prohibit local residents from entering casinos too. Officials have argued that easy access to the casinos could lead to gambling addictions among locals.

Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said that limited water and electricity resources on Matsu are a potential problem for gaming investments on the island. In response, former Lienchiang County Magistrate and independent Legislator Chen Hsuen-sheng (陳雪生), said yesterday that the problems of water and electricity can be solved easily; the main problem is whether or not the gaming project will be supported by the ruling and opposition parties in the Legislature.

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