Penghu residents vote this weekend

Taiwan’s Penghu island residents will be voting this Saturday on whether to permit casino development on the island, with the prospect of new casino resorts still under dispute from both sides, local media reports.

This will be the second time local residents have voted on the issue, rejecting the idea seven years ago.

Advocates have pointed to the economic benefits that casinos could bring, such as increased tourism in the county, and foreign investment.

“Without casinos, no foreign investor will come to Penghu,” said Chuang Kuang-hui of the Penghu Internationalisation Promotion Alliance, which initiated the new referendum, quoted by Channel News Asia.

Local businesswoman Felicia Chen is also backing casino development, arguing it would help the economy during the six-month tourist low season from November to April.

“Where there are crowds, there is money to boost tax revenues, which can be used for social welfare for local people,” she said.

However, others have argued that pro-gambling groups were over inflating the benefits that casinos would have on the economy.

“Given the regional gaming downturns, it could even be a drag on the local economy,” said Penghu-born Sheng I-che, head of the pro-environment Tree Party.

However, even if residents majority vote “yes” on Saturday, the path to establishing a casino industry is likely be difficult, said the news outlet.

The Matsu islands approved a casino in a 2012 referendum, but it has never been built as parliamentary approval is still pending.