|By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 29, 2009--Voters in Taiwan voted against casino gaming over the weekend, all but killing a project backed by Las Vegas gambling entrepreneur Larry Woolf.
Woolf's Las Vegas-based Navegante Group spent nearly four years piecing together a 27-acre beachfront site on the Taiwan island of Penghu for a potential hotel, casino and resort project. Penghu is a set of islands that caters mainly to tourists.
However, local residents over the weekend rejected a proposal that would allow casino resorts by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin. The issue had reportedly received strong opposition from religious and environmental groups.
According to news reports, the matter can be brought up to voters again in 2012.
"Currently this kills the options for a casino for three more years," Woolf said in an e-mail responding to questions about the project, which had called for a 600-room hotel and 130,000-square-foot casino. "We could still do a noncasino resort. (I) don't know which way the shareholders will go."
In March 2008, Woolf said the site was Taiwan's most viable gaming opportunity.
In January, Taiwan voted to allow gaming on its outlying islands subject to a local referendum.
Wall Street analysts said the vote could be a viewed as a positive indicator for Macau's gaming market, eliminating a source of competition.
"We view the news as a modest positive for the Macau market," Susquehanna Financial Group gaming analyst Robert LaFleur told investors Monday. "The Macau market only draws approximately 5 percent to 7 percent of the total visitors from Taiwan. However, the news will allow Macau to maintain its monopoly on casino gaming in the region, at least until Singapore casinos become operational."
Union Gaming Group principal Bill Lerner said Taiwan was just a marginal threat to Macau. It was also unclear whether the Beijing government would have allowed mainland Chinese gamblers to visit a casino in Taiwan.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871.
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