Taiwan plans offshore casinos

Posted on January 15th, 2009

We like to keep an eye on what is going on around the world when it comes to casinos to try and pick out some long term trends, and one thing is for sure, even in the current economic climate, is that the axis of gaming is shifting west from Las Vegas, over the Pacific and into Asia (or should we say east, but then that would be a longer way around the globe).

Everyone knows about the stellar growth in Macaus, even if it has been put on hold recently. But did you know that the Taiwanese are also getting in on the action?

Taiwan’s parliament voted to legalise gambling on offshore islands on Monday, joining a increasing number of Asian states who are looking for new tourism revenue streams and a way of powering economic development. Think Macau, Cambodia and Vietnam who have all developed casino resorts or are in the process of developing them.

The Penghu islands in the Taiwan Strait are one of the poorest bits of Taiwan- there are plans afoot for not one, not two but three big casino complexes to be built on the archipelago. South Korea is also mooting a move into gaming- and the Sands group have earmarked a development for Singapore.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who beacame the new man in charge in May 2008, has looked more favorably on the plans than his predecessor. He is part of the now ruling Nationalist Party (KMT).

Although the Chinese are famously keen on gambling, one thing that will stand in the way of the plans is the geographical location of the Pengu islands which, unlike Macau, are not close to major population centres. There´s also the other thorny issue that China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. But rule by China has affected the development of Macau which, since it opened its doors to foreign companies in 2002, has seen its economy mushroom with global players such as  MGM Mirage, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts muscling in on the action.

British AMZ Holdings is analysing Penghu sites and wants to construct a 500 room casino complex on a barren stretch of coastline. They are looking to invest $200 million.

Penghu currently has a population of 90,000. This is likely to increase if these plans go ahead.

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