Taiwan's 1st casino may open by 2019 at earliest: minister
Central News Agency
2013-05-02 10:30 PM
Taipei, May 2 (CNA) If all goes well, the country's first legally licensed casino could become operational by 2019 at the earliest, Transportation Minister Yeh Kuan-shih said Thursday. Yeh gave the forecast at a news conference after a weekly Cabinet meeting approved a draft statute that would regulate casinos and govern their operations.

The draft bill will be referred to the Legislative Yuan, Yeh said, adding that once the bill clears the legislative floor, the government will begin accepting applications for operating casinos in tourist resorts to be established on the outlying island of Matsu. Matsu residents passed a referendum in July 2012 in favor of a casino resort -- a first for any of Taiwan's outlying islands -- in the hope that such a facility will improve the local economy and infrastructure. But no projects can proceed until legislation to regulate casinos is passed at the national level. A United States-based company, Weidner Resorts, has expressed serious interest in building a casino resort on Matsu, which lies closer to China than to Taiwan proper. Yeh said two to three other business groups are also inquiring about progress in legislation of the gaming bill. "As it takes six months to one year to complete screening of an application for establishing a tourist resort-casino complex and construction of such a facility needs another four to five years, the first legal casino to operate in Matsu is not expected to start operations until 2019 at the earliest," Yeh said. Asked about the amount of tax revenues to be generated from the resort-casino business, Yeh said that in Singapore, each casino can bring about NT$15 billion (US$507.68 million) to NT$20 billion in tax revenues annually. Meanwhile, the minister ruled out the possibility of any tourist resort- casino being established in the proposed free economic demonstration zones. "Only outlying islands would be eligible to operate casinos in accordance with the Offshore Islands Development Act," Yeh added. According to the draft gaming bill, people under the age of 20 are barred from entering casinos. People with a gambling addiction can also be banned with applications by their spouses or close relatives. The draft bill stipulates that a casino can only be located in a tourist resort and its space cannot exceed 5 percent of the resort's total acreage. Only the company that builds the tourist resort can operate a casino in the complex, according to the draft bill. A special license is needed before any casino can begin operations and each license will remain valid for 30 years. The number of such licenses will depend on the number of tourist resorts allowed to be set up in each outlying island. Only cash or casino chips can be used in casino gambling, according to the bill. Casino operators are barred from accepting credit cards or debit cards for gambling payments. No automated teller machines or other machines that provide cash lending services can be set up inside any casino. The draft bill also stipulates that casino operators should pay license fees to the casino administrative agency, with the taxation rate to be set at 7 percent for the first 15 years and 8 percent from the 16th to 25th years and 9 percent from 26th to 30th years. The local governments of counties where casinos are located can levy a special gambling tax, with the rate capped at 7 percent. Casino operators should also contribute 0.5 percent of their revenues to local education, cultural and welfare programs and another 0.5 percent to a gambling addiction prevention fund, according to the bill. (By Hsieh Chia-chen and Sofia Wu)

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