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Draft keeps casinos off of main island, adds anti-addiction rules

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Cabinet approved yesterday draft amendments for a new law — the Tourist Gambling Site Management Act — establishing basic regulations for casinos and gambling sites on Taiwan's offshore islands.

According to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), the new law was made possible due to the Offshore Islands Development Act, which indicates that the gaming industry is considered legal only on outer-islands, such as Matsu.

Although some lawmakers are reportedly pushing to legalize the gaming industry for certain regions on the main island, MOTC Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said, “Currently, we do not have plans to expand the gaming industry.”

If all goes well, the country's first legally licensed casino could become operational by 2019 at the earliest, said Yeh.

According to Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), the push for tourist casinos came after the addition of a clause in the Offshore Islands Development Act in 2009, which established the legal guidelines for the offshore gambling industry.

The premier said tourist casinos provide a cash flow but also may cause complications and risk for the country. He noted that a possible standard of operation could be sourced from Singapore's rigorous regulations.

“In the future, not only will there be a specialized committee that oversees offshore gaming, but other ministry-level bureaus must also cooperate with the government in providing a safe and well-structured gambling industry that will become an important part of Taiwan's economy.”

While some government's require that casinos levy a tax on winners who cash out a certain amount of money, the government has decided that they will not levy such a tax for the first 20 years, according to the draft. “Government will begin considering whether they will levy these taxes or not after a 20-year period,” Yeh said.

Relatives Allowed to Keep Addicts from Casinos

The draft also mentioned that the local government will be able to levy a monthly 7-percent special tax on casinos. The central government can also impose a monthly royalty fee on casinos of 7 to 9 percent, according to the draft. Both taxes may not exceed 17 percent of the casino's revenues, the draft said.

In an effort to prevent gambling addiction, the government has drafted a clause that allows relatives and spouses of addicted gamblers to apply for restriction orders from the MOTC. Under these orders, the addicted gamblers would be denied access to the casinos.

According to Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou, founder and chairman of Foxconn, Taiwan should launch a casino in Danshui. New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu supported this idea. Some lawmakers, meanwhile, reportedly advocated for casinos to be established in certain economic free trade zones in Taiwan.

The Cabinet noted multiple times yesterday that under the current legal landscape casinos will launch on the offshore islands. It also said companies that wish to open casinos will need to go through a screening process.

Yeh said there are currently a few companies interested in establishing casinos. “If the Legislature passes the bill this summer, firms may present their proposals to open a casino. The review process will continue for six months to a year.

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