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Tourist Casino Management Act gutted in legislative review

TAIPEI--The Legislature's Transportation Committee approved a measure yesterday to restrict casinos to Taiwan's offshore islands, though a lack of consensus along lawmakers struck down nearly three-fourths of the items on the same bill.

The committee conducted an article-by-article review of the Tourist Casino Management Act draft bill, in which 83 of the 114 articles failed to pass.

Among the 31 approved articles were regulations for licensing and, notably, a measure that restricts the establishment of casinos only to offshore islands, provided they have the approval of local residents.

The Transportation Committee also passed a proposal to block government investment in casino operations in accordance with related regulations.

Residents of Taiwan's Lienchiang County on the offshore islands of Matsu gave their approval to a casino on July 7, 2012.

The Tourist Casino Management Act reviewed Thursday was drafted to provide additional legislation to the Offshore Island Development Act to facilitate the casino project there.

Analysts have said the potential for a gambling industry on Matsu, about an hour away from Taiwan by plane, is large because underground sports betting is already common on Taiwan's main island.

Meanwhile, Chinese tourists, who have been the driving force behind the development of gambling in Macau, already make frequent visits to Matsu by ferry for sightseeing.

Anti-casino groups have, however, called for a complete withdrawal of the bill, urging the government not to count on casinos to boost tourism.

Pan Han-shen, former spokesman for the Green Party Taiwan, said Thursday that even without a single casino today, Taiwan has seen tourist numbers on the rise. He urged politicians not to equate gambling with a tourism influx.

A referendum to build a casino on Penghu, a group of islands located closer to Taiwan, failed four years ago when it did not secure enough support among locals.

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