Taiwan the Latest to Legalize Gambling

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After 15 years of talks, Taiwan’s legislature has passed a bill to legalize gambling on the Penghu islands, located off the west coast of Taiwan’s main island. While Macau takes the lion’s share of Asia’s gaming dollars, reeling in more than $10 billion USD in 2007 (2008 figures haven’t yet been released), there’s no shortage of wagering opportunities in the rest of the region. Cambodia, the Philippines and Japan lead the way, each with dozens of casinos or racetracks. In November, Wuhan legalized horse betting for the first time on the mainland since 1949. And Singapore’s first casino, the Marina Bay Sands, is set to open this year.

Religious groups in Taiwan protested the decision, arguing that casinos would have a negative effect on society (see our story on gambling addiction in Asia here.) The Singaporean and South Korean governments also faced strong opposition when they decided to legalize gambling. Their solution: Singapore will allow foreigners to patronize casinos free of charge while requiring local citizens to pay a $68 entrance fee. In South Korea, locals are banned altogether from most casinos. Taiwan has time to weigh the risks—with industry regulations still up in the air, it may be years before the first casino opens its doors.