Betting in Taiwan

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Located in East Asia, the Republic of China (ROC), more commonly referred to as Taiwan, is a unitary sovereign state comprised of a number of islands. The main island of Taiwan (also known as Formosa) accounts for about 99% of the ROC’s total territory. Other major islands are Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, and there are numerous minor islands.

With few exceptions, gambling is by and large illegal throughout Taiwan. The ROC has existed as a sovereign state for only a relatively short period of time, and its long history of occupation explains in part why this segment of the economy has been so slow to develop.

Around 1590, the first Western ship passed by the island. Its Dutch navigator called the land mass he saw “Ilha Formosa,” or “Beautiful Island,” and that remained its name for the next four centuries. Dutch occupation lasted from 1624 to 1662. During that time, a narrow peninsula on the Southwestern coast was called “Tayouan,” meaning “terrace bay,” which later evolved into “Taiwan” and became to be the name for the entire island.

Between the late 17th century and 1895, China’s Manchu emperors nominally ruled the island territories, but they did so only loosely, allowing frequent rebellions among the unruly local inhabitants. It was not 1887 that the Manchu Imperial authorities declared Taiwan to be a “province” of their Empire, in a ploy to stop the Japanese from extending their own influence to the South.

However, Japan’s victory in the Sino-Japanese War resulted in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895. The island’s inhabitant resisted and declared themselves to be the first independent republic in Asia—The Taiwan Republic. Nevertheless, Japan’s harsh occupation continued through World War II.

In the post-War years, civil war broke out in China between the Communists and Nationalists. The latter forces, led by General Chiang Kai-shek, eventually fled the mainland in 1949 and established their own government in Taiwan.

For the next four decades, the Taiwanese people would live under Martial Law, which did not allow for any forms of gambling. Even playing three or more Mahjongg games in a row was considered sufficient cause for police to arrest all participants, even if no money changed hands.

By the time Martial Law was dropped in 1987 and replaced by a less-stringent National Security Law, Taiwan had grown economically. In 1991-92, the first direct elections of all legislators were conducted. Then, in 1996, for the first time in history, the Taiwanese people were able to directly elect their President.

In the late 1990s, the ROC government sent a team to Las Vegas to study its casino industry with special emphasis on any connection between gambling and the city’s crime rate. By 2003, a 56-percent majority of Penghu island residents voted in favor of opening casinos in the straits between Taiwan and China as a way to attract tourists and boost the economy. By 2007, a £350 million casino resort had been proposed and a developer began buying up parcels of land for the project.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese government balked on legislation to legalise gambling on several occasions. As of 2011, Taiwanese gambling laws still forbid any form of gambling within Formosa, and conservative tribal leaders on the outlying islands have voiced opposition to construction of new casino resorts on the “holy soil of their ancestral home.”

Many believe that approval of casino permits is inevitable, with perhaps two four licenses being granted within the next five years. In the meantime, Taiwanese resident must content themselves with betting via the Internet, which is not prohibited as long as the web sites are based outside Taiwan’s borders.

Not surprisingly, some 463 sports betting web sites currently welcome residents of Taiwan. Of those, 30 sites offer access in the Chinese-language for those who play from Taiwan, including Bet365, William Hill, Expekt, Stan James and Bodog88, to name just a few of the major ones.