Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Taiwan approves gambling enclaves

By Cindy Sui
BBC News, Taipei

Dozens of Taiwanese demonstrators chant slogans during a protest outside parliament in Taipei on Monday against a bill aimed at lifting a ban on casinos
Opponents say gambling poses social and ecological perils to Penghu

Taiwan's parliament has voted to legalise gambling on outlying islands, in hopes of boosting the economy and attracting tourists.

The decision will open the way for casinos to be built on the outlying archipelago of Penghu.

It has been seeking government approval to develop the gaming industry.

Taiwan aims to join a growing number of Asian economies which are looking to the gaming industry as a way to earn more revenue and tax dollars.

The Penghu archipelago, a group of 90 islets, has been suffering for years from a depressed economy and lack of jobs.

This has forced its young people to leave in search of work.

Penghu lies in the Taiwan Strait, between Taiwan and the east coast of China, and officials and residents there want to attract more tourists from China.

With the casinos, the islands hope thousands of jobs will be created and that many Chinese and other tourists will visit Penghu.

Social risks?

But opponents - including Buddhist and other religious groups, which have been protesting outside parliament, as well as the main opposition party - warn of potential social and ecological problems.

Opposition legislators also accused the ruling party of unrealistically looking to China to solve Taiwan's economic woes.

They pointed out that the nearby gambling centre of Macau faces problems of being too dependent on Chinese gamblers.

China recently placed restrictions on its citizens visiting Macau, for fear of capital flight.

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