Sunday, July 08, 2012

Matsu Votes for Casinos

A 200mm telephoto is great for portraits. She was shy and wouldn't face the camera.

“Honestly, I don’t believe that the future casino operator would be able to give us the NT$80,000 per month subsidy, I don’t even care if the casino goes out of business in a few years,” she said. “When the casino closes, the bridge and the airport that they built would still be around, right?” -- Woman quoted in Taipei Times

The Taipei Times reports:
According to final figures announced by the Lienchiang County Government, 56 percent voted in favor of the initiative, against 42 percent who opposed it. A total of 3,162 of 7,762 eligible voters cast ballots, for a voter turnout of 40.7 percent. Among those who voted, 1,795 supported the casino plan, while 1,341 were against it. There were 28 invalid ballots.
Turnout of 40%... the legislature had changed the referendum law for gambling for the previous referendum on gambling in the Penghu. The law had previously required that 50% of the electorate had to vote on a referendum to make it valid. After held two votes on referenda for gambling, perhaps it will become more difficult for the KMT gov't to avoid a referendum if it attempts to annex the island to China in some meaningful way. Despite the alleged importance of the vote to the island's economy, 60% of the electorate of this totally pro-KMT island couldn't be bothered to come out and vote, likely because it was inevitable that it would win.

The developer made all sorts of promises: an international airport (which must be built if the casino is going to operate), a college town, a causeway linking the two islands in the area, and buckets of money, $18,000 a month after the first year (basically minimum wage) rising to $80,000 a month in the fifth year if profits reach a certain level.  A legislator pointed out in the Taipei Times piece that things might not be so easy:
“Before a casino resort can be built, the legislature first needs to pass the proposed Gambling Act [博奕法],” he said. “Besides, most of the land in Matsu is either government or military property. Some is even restricted military zones — so there is a long and complicated administrative procedure to go through.”

He also questioned Weidner Resorts Taiwan’s willingness to make such a huge investment to improve or build transportation and tourism facilities in Matsu.

“I’m personally opposed to the casino plan, but I respect the opinion of the majority,” Chen said.
I think the history of developmentalist state projects in Taiwan suggests three things (1) the KMT-controlled legislature will pass the gambling law; (2) the developer is going to renege on most of the promises except the airport; and (3) if the developer wants to build on government land, they will just go ahead and do it and worry about the permits later if ever -- the usual practice for developers in Taiwan. That will not be so easy for military land.... however, I don't think that any great casino development will ever occur on Matsu, because....

Reuters reported:
Analysts say a casino in Matsu would have minimal impact on gambling revenues in Macau which is located on China's southern coast. It is also not clear how easy it would be for Chinese citizens to get visas to travel to the Taiwanese islands.

"Five percent of overall visitation to Macau is from Taiwan, and Matsu is less conveniently located from Taipei than Macau," Macau and Las Vegas-based Union Gaming said in a note.

Weidner Resorts Taiwan, a company run by former Las Vegas Sands executive Bill Weidner, has unveiled plans to build a casino resort that includes luxury hotels, professional sports venues and convention halls.
"Professional sports venues"?? On Matsu?

The putative casinos are obviously aimed at punters from neighboring Fujian province in China, not Taiwanese.....

In my previous post on this topic I collected the following information.....
The AmCham article notes that infrastructure on Matsu is primitive and bad weather often shuts down transportation, making it the less preferable of the two islands. It seems intuitively obvious that a referendum for Kinmen is in the cards at some point.
This suggests also that this whole Matsu casino thing is vapor and no casinos are ever going to appear on the island -- the real point is to have the referendum in a place where it can't lose, get the necessary gambling laws passed, and then put pressure on Kinmen to allow casino gambling.

The AmCham article also makes the comical claim that casinos in Taiwan can be kept free of gangsterism. Kinda like the way professional baseball in Taiwan is, eh? I also observed that those casinos are covered under the offshore islands act, which frees businesses on the island of taxation. Meaning that those casinos will pay no taxes to the government, as far as I can see. Does anyone know different?

UPDATE: Comments are great.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Anonymous said...

The idea of a "college" is essentially the developer telegraphing his intentions to launder money and hide assets.

Anonymous said...

Most of the articles on future Matsu Casino resorts are misleading. What I mean is that there are other consortiums, with much better financial and professional casino management resources, planning resorts on Matsu. They just played it smart and stayed low keyed until the referendum passed.

Weidner Resorts is a joke. They have no money and are all talk. In fact, it is amazing the casino referendum passed because this big mouth infuriated many residents with his blatant lies. Many people voted no because they didn't like this guy's way of doing buisness. Sheldon Adelson had this to say about Weidner:

"Would I have done anything different? Yes, I would’ve fired Bill Weidner a long time ago. He created a financing situation that was completely inappropriate. Now we’re getting financing that’s more appropriate." link. Do we need people like this in Taiwan?? Even his 4 person staff is untrustworthy. link.

Btw, from what I know, Kimen Magistrate Lee has several legal issues pending, so I guess a Kimen referendum would be several years away until he steps down. Personally, I think the KMT wants to bring gaming to Taiwan itself, not an offshore island.

Re: Taxes, from what I know, the will get a %. In Macao it is 40%, in Singapore it is 12%. So the .gov will get something.

The goofed a bit because there was a team working closely with the Nevada State Gaming Control board to put in place stong gaming control laws, but for some odd reason, they decided to give this incredibly important legal contract to a small team of local, inexperienced in gaming, lawyers (Paul Hsu). Big mistake. Maybe the will see the light, it is not too late. They should have just followed the Singapore gaming model.

les said...

Have a look at the experience of Tinian in the CNMI...

Even the US federal govt. cannot persuade them to pay their tax bill, do anything for local infrastructure or even hire a local citizen. All the staff come from China and all profits and presumably salaries go back there. The local inhabitants get to deal with the garbage and pollution, plus inflation. The casino regularly burns plastic trash to cut costs and the smell on this tiny island is sickening, reducing the chance that anyone other than Chinese gamblers will come visit.

Anonymous said...

Oh my sweet lord, I cannot believe how naive you people are: Weidner Resorts is nothing more than a front company put together at Beijing's behest. Why else would Lienchiang County Government be falling over itself to do business with such an outfit? The truth of the matter is that aside from the largely overlooked economic annexation of the county to mainland China, the casino has nothing to do with Taiwan. The gamblers will be predominantly mainland Chinese, the revenues will make their way into the communist leadership's pockets and Macau will see fewer patrons from the other side of the strait as a result of tighter visa issuing regulations decreed by Beijing. Someone wrote that Kinmen is next. Well, yes, this is probably true but do not forget that all that sweet land conveniently packaged together at great cost for AMZ Holdings PLC by the central and local government in Penghu County has still not been sold.

Anonymous said...

Good link, Les. Reminds me of all the funny business Jack Abramoff was doing in Saipan/Tianan (?)

Although both places are backwaters (Matsu and Saipan) I don't think its the right comparison. I would look more at what Singapore has accomplished as far as gaming laws / gangsterism and also keeping the place beautiful.

Michael Turton said...

""Well, yes, this is probably true but do not forget that all that sweet land conveniently packaged together at great cost for AMZ Holdings PLC by the central and local government in Penghu County has still not been sold.""

Hahaha. Yes, that was like the largest single landholding in Taiwan.

Thanks for the comments, great ones.

雲島の竜 said...

Hi Michael,

I'm not gonna comment on the casino in Matsu, personally I don't think it's gonna work.

What I would like to comment though, is that I saw you on TV. A show on FTV news channel. You look good on TV :D

Anonymous said...

Taiwan Government introduced this cat weidner as father of gambling in one their meetings, what a Joke that is, father of gambling? seriously? This guy is nothing but lip service and at most an ex-employee( not partner as his girl friend calls him) of sands.

Anonymous said...

some claim they help to write the draft law, let me clarify the draft law and all of it has been done by a law firm called Lin and Associates. NO other lawyer or law firm was hired by TW government. Maybe lack of experience about Gaming law, but they are the ones.

Anonymous said...

Hi there you all,

Taiwan Government has no clues how to do this, and they will most likely sit on their hands like everything else they do and do nothing. KMT and DPP dont see eye-to-eye on this and all the under-ground organized crimes in TW will also not allow this to become real. But for those that want to continue spending their money with Lawyers and lobby groups, put your money in Macua or Vegas.