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Poker Debate Begins in Taiwan

The debate on legalising poker has started to heat up in Taiwan after a Taiwanese politician stated his positive views on the game.

The kind words came from Government Minister Yang Chiu-hsing, who said that poker should be officially defined as an ‘intellectual contest’ instead of gambling. While Taiwan does not have a law covering poker tournaments per se, it does have strict laws against gambling, which could potentially lead to legal nightmares for promoters who host poker events there.

That is likely the reason why no major poker events have been held in the East Asian island nation up to now, especially while an increasing number of poker events are held in other regional areas like the Philippines and Macau. Minister Yang’s views have led him to call for the legislature to make a distinction on poker tournament and other forms of gambling that exist.

Other countries in the area have also undertaken actions and debate on regulating poker and other forms of gaming. A debate on the legalisation of casinos has gone on in Japan for quite some time, with that country’s legislature set to vote on the issue in the near future.

In Far East Russia, the city of Vladivostok and the area surrounding it has been declared as one of just four areas in Russia where legal gaming can take place. This has led to various companies and gaming figures outlining their interest in being a part of the soon to be established industry there.

Like most other places, Taiwan would likely see a boost in tourism numbers should it choose to make the legal issues of poker more transparent. This would especially be the case should it host large scale poker events as these would attract players from all over Asia and possibly the world.

Economic experts have estimated that such an event could bring around NT$45 million (around US$1.5 million) in tourism revenue. That would be a welcome contribution to the Taiwanese economy, which has slowed down in recent times.

Allowing poker events to be hosted in Taiwan would also help keep poker players from playing in other nearby areas, like the Philippines and Japan, should that country end up legalising casinos. With the potential for most of its neighbours to have no legal obstacles to playing poker, Taiwan may be ‘left behind’ in the near future, which could lead to potential tourism and gaming money going elsewhere.

Taiwanese poker players are among the top professionals in Asia. Poker pro Fan Yun-hsiang won the Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon event back in April, and is currently on top of the Asia Player of the Year rankings. Other Taiwanese players like Chen Li-han and Lin Hung-sheng have also been consistent performers in major Asian poker events.

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