The Election Commission of Kinmen, based on an outlying island county of Taiwan, announced on Monday that a referendum would be held on October 28 for the residents of Kinmen to decide whether to allow a casino industry there.
Taiwanese news agency Focus Taiwan reported that Tsai Chun-sheng, a member of the county council, initiated a petition and collected 5,602 valid signatures, surpassing the threshold of 5,178 needed to trigger a referendum on any topic at local government level.
The budget for the referendum is set at TWD9 million (U$296,215). The county’s election commission is expected formally to announce on June 23 the fact of the referendum.
The Kinmen Anti-casinos Alliance criticised the wording of the referendum request as designed to be “strongly persuading” and as “unclear in terms of the definitions”, according to a report in Taiwanese media outlet China Times. The antis’ group also accused the Kinmen Election Committee of “malfeasance” and being partisan.
The Central News Agency of Taiwan reported the antis’ alliance would take legal action against the decision and would seek to prevent the official announcement of the poll.
Such a referendum in Kinmen would be the fourth on the topic of allowing casinos on outlying islands. Matsu, another Taiwanese archipelago, held a referendum in July 2012, with residents voting in favour of casinos. But the lack of national legislation on casino regulations stalled progress.
Two referendums took place in Penghu, also an outlying island chain, in September 2009 and October 2016 respectively. On each occasion a majority of those casting a vote opposed the introduction of a casino industry. In the 2016 referendum, 81 percent of the votes cast opposed the proposition.
Taiwan’s President Tasi Ing-wen, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, had previously stated her party’s opposition to the opening of casinos in Taiwan.
In 2015 news agency Xinhua reported mainland China officials had ruled out the idea of that country’s citizens being allowed to travel to any of Taiwan’s outlying islands gaining the right to operate casinos.
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"Our main focus is just making sure – and particularly within Australia – to the maximum extent possible, that we can have uniformity [among different jurisdictions]"
Chief executive of the Australia-based Gaming Technologies Association