The sleepy, tiny little island of Matsu is located northwest of mainland Taiwan, and it has many attractions to recommend it to visitors. It is calm and peaceful, a place to enjoy watching the waves and listening to the birds tweeting to one another, while you stroll along the relaxing seafront – and later on, head to the new Taiwan casino that will be built there over the next few years.
This will be a huge change for Matsu. It once held an important position as a military outpost, defending Taiwan from Communist soldiers during the Cold War, but the 50,000 soldiers that were stationed here then no longer have any reason to stay around. In a time that is significantly more peaceful, only 5,000 of them remain, which has meant a downturn of job opportunities existing on the island as the industry has less demand on it and less resources are needed. In turn, this has caused the younger population to leave in favour of mainland Taiwan in search of employment, causing the population to enter a downward spiral as cause and effect intertwine.
In order to try and solve this problem at least partially, voters were recently presented with a referendum over the idea of building casinos on this idyllic island. The ruling party in Taiwan, Kuomintang, have long been wanting to build the casino industry in the country after seeing the success in Singapore and Macau that has resulted in a boom for their economies, and at last the residents of Matsu have agreed to allow this to take place. It feels to them like a necessary evil – something that they must accept if their small community is to be saved. They need a bigger airport, they say, and the only way that they will get this is by promoting tourism to the area by adding in the casino.
“It’s very important for us to have more Chinese tourists here. It will help our economy, create more jobs and improve our infrastructure, especially by building a bigger airport,” a representative of the local tourism office told reporters. Only around seven thousand Chinese visitors each year come to these Taiwanese islands, and the government are keen to draw more of them in – and it is of course well known that Chinese high rollers love to try out new places. We can expect that slot machine games, card tables, and tournaments will do the trick.