Japanese lawmakers will attempt to make one last push for their casino bill.
Years of research, blood, sweat and tears have gone into Japan’s highly prized Integrated Resorts or Casino Bill. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a staunch advocate of the bill, would like to see casino operations launched prior to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. Athough casino operators such as the Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International have waged their support, the struggle for full support for the bill in their parliament is a bit shaky.
• Japanese lawmakers try to pass bill
• Goal is to pass bill before Oympics
• Foreign investors losing confidence
The Buddhist influenced Komeito party, Abe’s junior coalition party is opposed to the bill. This is due to their growing desire to decrease Japan’s continued threat of the promoting a gambling lifestyle. Anti- casino lawmakers who are opposed to the bill point to Japanese addiction to pachinko. Pachinko has already proven to provide some difficulty to control gambling addiction among the populace and a connection to organized crime.
Gearing up for one more legislative attempt
Those lawmakers who are the most “gung ho” about legalizing casinos are about to get ready for one more attempt. This will be done via a rather obscure way to the parliamentary committee. The strong opposition from a minority has sealed the bill’s ill-fated passage into parliament at the end of June. Of course this will shatter all hopes for casinos to be built prior to Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.
The expired bill is going to be resubmitted by members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party to the Land and Transport Committee. This smaller, less conspicuous committee deals primarily with issues involving the removal of utility poles in favor of underground lines. This act would bypass the busier Cabinet Committee which is normally chosen for such “grander” issues.
LDP lawmaker Takeshi Iwaya explained the angle to Reuters. “As long as the ruling coalition can agree and win support, it doesn’t matter which committee it’s submitted to. Iwaya also said that “if this bill doesn’t pass the current session of parliament it will be hopeless. I think the time limit will be up.” It will definitely prove challenging to pass a bill that could minimized gambling not guided by Japanese gambling laws before Tokyo’s Olympics.
The Cabinet Committee is burdened with other “higher-priority” bills whereas the Land and Transport Committee has a lighter load and longer calendar for legislation. Supporters of the bill have admitted facing difficulty pushing this bill due to the strong opposition by members of the Komeito party. Iwaya also said that “if this bill doesn’t pass the current session of parliament it will be hopeless. I think the time limit will be up.”
It is down to the wire decide the fate of what brokerage CLSA estimates to be a possible $40 billion a year industry for Japan. Already gaming companies like Las Vegas Sands Corp and MGM Resorts International, who were excited about Japan, turn their eyes towards South Korea and are ready to sway their support if Japanese do not pass the casino bill soon.
Such a loss of outside support could ruin a large amount of revenue that could be made within the confines of Japanese gambling laws. Bill Hornbuckle, president of MGM Resorts International said “This will take leadership. At some point someone is going to have to say ‘this is important to us, let’s push this thing forward’. I think it does lose momentum of a significant opportunity…so we would look elsewhere.”
Special Task Force for Casino Bill to be Disbanded
A special task force of public servants formed to push the progress of the casino bill may have to be disbanded. An unidentified source with direct knowledge of the situation told GGRAsia “that could happen, should the congressional discussion of the Casino Bill not be concluded at this ordinary session of the Diet.” Disbanding the panel will have negative effects not only for the passing of the bill, but in the future as well.
The unknown source continued to reveal a bit more about what the lawmakers are dealing with when it comes to pushing the bill. “One of the concerns is that it is rather difficult to keep hold of central government officers at the Cabinet Office who are working on the IR Bill…..as there is no basis for them to stay with the relevant law being passed.” If the bill itself cannot survive, then what’s the purpose having group to sustain it.
Set up last year, the body to bring officials from various agencies to come up with a second piece of casino legislation that could include administrative and regulatory issues. This would come after the casino bill was passed. Perhaps the liberalization has been stagnated due to other issues. Regardless it is having an effect on International investors by causing them to have less confidence in Japanese politics.
It definitely appears that domestic politics in Japan has taken a forefront in the decline of excitement over this Casino Bill. The unnamed source went on to say that “because of time constraints caused by the upcoming general election of local assemblies and discussion of higher priority issues such as national security and current dispute on political fund contributions, it is not easy to pass the IR Bill in the ordinary session.”
“Another possibility is to pass it in the coming extraordinary session this fall but it incurs concerns for the foreign operators for the additional delay and uncertainty,” continued the unnamed source. Known in Japanese gambling news, Hornbuckle recently made a presentation at an investor forum in Tokyo in February in which he challenged some cons held by opponents of the casino bill and highlighted the benefits of casinos for communities.