Chinese have the quaintest names for things; what we call “commercial areas,” they call “free economic pilot zones.”  It’s almost like the old regimes are still around, whispering in someone’s ear; it all sounds so very formal in tone. But there’s nothing formal about where Taiwan is headed now, as they lean further and further towards allowing something as grossly Western as, gasp, casinos.

It’s going to require a big change to get there though, including revamping the old Criminal Code, which currently strictly prohibits any casino development inside Taiwan. But the times they are a’changing, and New Taipei City’s mayor is now embracing the concept of the Free Economic Pilot Zones, and excited that one of the first is expected to land in his city, where he hopes to eventually see a kind of Las Vegas East unfurl.

Zones Would Allow for Casinos

The Zones would allow for a brave new world, where the evils of the West, like gambling, development, and tax breaks for casino developers and patrons would exist, all making old-timers turn in their graves, no doubt.

Yes, one of the first things Taiwanese legislators came together on was an agreement to waive taxes on casino winnings for a minimum of 20 years after the first casinos open; sounds like they plan to be among the first patrons.  Not everyone saw eye-to-eye on that; the Ministry of Finance naturally wanted their pound of flesh and had asked for a 20% winnings tax, but he was shot down by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, as well as the good old American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, who both said, “Not how it’s done in the Western world, buddy,” adding that it would not be a compelling selling point for potential investors. In this spirit,  Taiwanese lawmakers agreed to impose only a 13% gross gaming revenue tax for their gambling operators.

Matsu Might Get Weidner

Meanwhile, over on the Matsu Islands, the Taiwanese Cabinet is designing legislation to allow casinos to come in there, as well. Although Weidner Resorts appears to be perched for the #1 take-off position once casinos are allowed, the company’s CEO William Weidner has been none too happy with what apparently isn’t quite a Western-friendly enough approach for his liking. Weidner has criticized the government for being slow and plodding, and says he will look elsewhere if there isn’t a bit more chop-chop speed applied.

The ghost of the old ways lingers on.