Taiwan has elected its nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen as president, and also voted the DPP into control of the legislature. The results are a setback for efforts to build Taiwanese casinos because Tsai spoke against allowing gambling during her election campaign. Seven years ago she also instructed legislators to vote against a law that would allow gaming referenda on offshore islands.
The attitude of China, whose citizens would be the target customers of Taiwanese casinos, should make matters worse. Cooperation with mainland authorities would be needed to organize cross-strait gambling trips. But relations between the two sides look certain to sour given Tsai’s independence-leaning, anti- China stance. Even under her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou, who was seen as pro-Beijing, mainland authorities were opposed to allowing gambling visits to Taiwan.
In a recent note, Union Gaming said Macau’s “Big 6” gaming operators would likely stay away from any Request for Proposals from Taiwan to build casinos out of fear of upsetting the Beijing government. The slumping regional market, caused by a slowing mainland economy and president Xi Jinping’s ongoing campaign against corruption should also deter other potential bidders, according to the investment bank.
Passed in 2009, Taiwan’s “Offshore Islands Development Act” gave the go-ahead for smaller islands under its jurisdiction to hold referenda to allow casino gaming. The island of Matsu, which is some 20km off the Chinese coast near to the Fujian provincial capital of Fuzhou, has since voted in favor. Further progress would require Taiwan’s legislature to pass two more bills; one laying out the law for casinos, and another establishing regulations for casinodriven integrated resorts.
In a separate development, Taiwanese police busted three illegal gambling operations in the run up to the country’s polls. All were taking bets on the outcome of the presidential election.