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Residents of Taiwan’s Penghu reject plans for casinos in popular tourist spot

Residents of Taiwan’s Penghu have once again rejected a proposal to build casinos in the archipelago county popular with tourists.

In a referendum held yesterday, about 80 per cent of the votes were against introducing gambling, with about 33,000 people out of 83,400 eligible voters casting ballots.

The lobbying groups on the two sides of the issue made their case for what economic development was best for the community.

One hour into counting, the Alliance against Legalisation of Gambling declared victory.

“Despite all odds, voters … have used their wisdom and sense to safeguard the sustainable development of Penghu,” said Ho Tsung-hsun, executive director of the alliance, according to television footage.

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Ho was referring to the timing of the referendum, which was held five days after Taiwan’s National Day holiday when most residents had returned to the main island for work.

He also said the pro-side had tried to mislead voters into believing that casinos would boost Penghu’s static economic growth.

The final tally was 26,592 against and 6,210 in support. The previous referendum held in 2009, saw 56 per cent against and 44 per cent in support.

Chen Meng, convener of the pro-casino Alliance Promoting Internationalisation of Penghu, called the vote unfair, pointing to opposition by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and her government of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party voiced before the referendum was held.

“With the president using her influence to oppose it, a serious voting defeat was already expected,” he told TV.