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Taiwan; If all goes well, the country's first legally licensed casino could become operational by 2019 at the earliest, Transportation Minister Yeh Kuan-shih said.
Yeh gave the forecast at a news conference after a weekly Cabinet meeting approved a draft statute that would regulate casinos and govern their operations.
Once a draft bill clears the legislative floor, the government will begin accepting applications for operating casinos in tourist resorts to be established on the outlying island of Matsu.
Matsu residents passed a referendum in July 2012 in favor of a casino resort -- a first for any of Taiwan's outlying islands -- in the hope that such a facility will improve the local economy and infrastructure.
A United States-based company, Weidner Resorts, has expressed serious interest in building a casino resort on Matsu, which lies closer to China than to Taiwan proper.
"As it takes six months to one year to complete screening of an application for establishing a tourist resort-casino complex and construction of such a facility needs another four to five years, the first legal casino to operate in Matsu is not expected to start operations until 2019 at the earliest," Yeh said.
Meanwhile, the minister ruled out the possibility of any tourist resort- casino being established in the proposed free economic demonstration zones.
"Only outlying islands would be eligible to operate casinos in accordance with the Offshore Islands Development Act," Yeh added.
The draft bill stipulates that a casino can only be located in a tourist resort and its space cannot exceed 5 percent of the resort's total acreage.
Only the company that builds the tourist resort can operate a casino in the complex, according to the draft bill.
The draft bill also stipulates that casino operators should pay license fees to the casino administrative agency, with the taxation rate to be set at 7 percent for the first 15 years and 8 percent from the 16th to 25th years and 9 percent from 26th to 30th years.
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