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August 22, 2017

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Casino resort to 'put Matsu back on its feet'

Bringing a casino resort to Matsu will revive the island's economy and allow it to stand on its own feet instead of relying on central government funding, William Weidner, chairman and CEO of Weidner Resorts, said in Taipei yesterday as he revealed details of his company's ambitious plans for the outlying island.

Infrastructure investments, one of Matsu residents' main desires, will be the first part of the NT$60 billion project. Upgrading the airport to a class 4C standard and building a 2.5-km bridge connecting the islands of Nangan and Beigan are among the planned improvements. A university campus will also be built where students can be trained in tourism and hotel management in order to supply and house the resort's estimated 3,500 to 5,000 workforce. Weidner mentioned that the infrastructure investments will be done purely from a business perspective and not as a sign of goodwill.

The main resort will boast an arena that can seat 15,000 to 18,000 people, which will be used to bring world-class sporting and performance events to Matsu.

Fifty million potential visitors living in the surrounding mainland provinces combined with Taiwanese visitors, who will contribute a significant portion of the resort's revenue, help make such a big initial investment viable, the CEO added.

Besides creating 6,000 to 8,000 jobs, Matsu residents will receive a monthly social benefit of NT$18,000 per person during the resort's first year of operation. This value is projected to increase to NT$80,000 by the fifth year of the operation, according to Weidner.

With a proposed 13 percent gaming tax and 1 million estimated visitors in its first year of operation, the Matsu government will earn 130 percent of the value it receives in subsidies from the central government, he said.

Critics fear crime will go hand-in-hand with gambling activities, to which Weidner responded by pointing to the excellent security environment at his Macau and Singapore resorts. Environmental concerns are also a high priority for the CEO. A sensitive marine area east of Beigan will receive special attention, while state of the art technology will be employed in desalination and sewage plants which will return water to the environment cleaner than it was when sourced.

Weidner hopes the government will be able to finalize gambling regulations within the next year and a half. Although he emphasized that he is here for the long run, he also made it clear that he will not wait forever.

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