July 2-8, 2012
Matsu residents hold anti-casino protest ahead of referendum
Reported by Lin Yi-ying
Written by Lydia Ma
Matsu is scheduled to hold a local referendum on July 7, 2012 on whether to accept a proposal to establish a casino resort there. In response, the Alliance Against the Legalization of Gambling went to the Supreme Court to file a complaint against Matsu County Magistrate Yang Sui-sheng and Weidner Resorts on June 27 and also joined Matzu Anti-Gambling Alliance for a protest march on the afternoon of July 1. Both gestures were enthusiastically welcomed by Matsu residents who have many misgivings about building a casino on the island.
Although casinos are illegal in Taiwan, an amendment to the Offshore Islands Development Act passed in 2009 conditionally legalizes casino gambling on Taiwan's off-shore islands. Under this amendment, a casino can be opened if the project passes a referendum among local residents. The reason Ho Tsung-shun, Executive Director of Anti-Gambling Alliance, filed a complaint was because both the Magistrate and Weidner Resorts were suspected of vote-buying and fraud ahead of the referendum.
According to Ho, Weidner Resorts had held many public seminars in support of building a casino and promised to build an international airport, an university, as well as a causeway linking Beigan island to the neighboring island of Nangan. It also boasted, among other things, that it would create 5,000 new job opportunities and give back NT$18,000 in cash bonuses to residents every year. Such promises prompted Ho to counter that “an American casino corporation that claims to be as capable as to accomplish all of these things might as well come and set up a government here.”
He then reported that, upon close investigation, Weidner Resorts’ total capital is merely NT$1 million and the official address where this company is registered has no employees. These facts have give him reason to suspect Weidner is either a fake company or a cover for some other activity. He also said that he believed Yang might have been duped and used by corporations into supporting the creation of a casino in Matsu.
“Reject gambling on July 7! Matsu’s future is in your hands!” cried protesters at the rally on July 1. There were about 40 people present at this rally, including high school and elementary school students, youths, and government employees. They held posters with anti-gambling slogans written on them as they marched on. This rally marked the first time that residents in Matsu had used the Parade and Assembly Law to apply for permission to hold a public rally.
Days before the rally, a few protesters also joined these anti-gambling organizations in visiting all the townships in Matsu and making appearances at marketplaces, public schools, Buddhist temples, and other locations to raise awareness on the perils of establishing casinos and the importance of opposing gambling. They underscored that a casino was not the only way to revitalize Matsu’s local economy.