Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Steadfast on Promoting Casino Resorts

Posted on: October 12, 2021, 08:23h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2021, 02:29h.

Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida won the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership election late last month. He officially became prime minister on October 4, 2021, following his predecessor Yoshihide Suga’s resignation.

Japan IR casino PM Fumio Kishida
Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida readies to deliver his first policy speech in Tokyo on Friday, October 8, 2021. The new prime minister is carrying on with the casino goals of his two predecessors. (Image: AP)

Only a week into his reign, Kishida is doubling down on the opinion shared by his two predecessors. That is, allowing commercial companies to develop integrated resort (IR) casinos is in the best interest of Japan. The new prime minister said as much this week.

IR is an important initiative for Japan to become an advanced tourism nation,” Kishida declared during a meeting with parliament members in the House of Representatives. “We are proceeding appropriately.”

Kishida was in the Diet chamber giving a policy address to lawmakers. He fielded questions from the politicians after his speech.

Japan’s National Diet legalized commercial gambling and up to three casino IR destinations in 2018. More than three years later, the country is finally amid the bidding process for the operating privileges.

Market Purpose

Former PM Shinzo Abe is responsible for leading Japan towards commercial gambling. The longtime head of government in Japan, Abe urged the Diet to allow casinos in an attempt to diversify the country’s economy by way of tourism.

Abe, in early 2020, set the ambitious goal of attracting 60 million visitors annually to Japan 2030. The pandemic greatly delayed Japan’s IR timeline, but the goal nevertheless remains.

However, there is much IR opposition in the Tokyo capital. The Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), the leading opposition party, recently introduced legislation that seeks to repeal the 2018 IR law.

Kishida rejected such an attempt, saying the legality of IRs is not up for debate.

IR is a crucial element of becoming an advanced tourism nation. A domestic IR will take measures against addiction and will build not only a casino, but also build international conference halls and large hotels as a tourism base that can be enjoyed by families. IR attracts a lot of tourists, and the regional economic ripple effect is significant,” the prime minister stated.

Japan’s general public has expressed mixed views on casino gambling. Opposition parties, such as the CDP, are hoping to win votes by expressing their hostility to the IR movement during the parliament-wide election that will take place later this month or in November.

Post-COVID IRs Questioned 

Some House lawmakers, including CDP Deputy Rep. Kiyomi Tsujimoto, asked their new leader if IRs still carried the same weight in the wake of COVID-19, a pandemic that greatly impacted large-scale gatherings and conventions. Kishida said all aspects of the IR projects continue to be reviewed.

“The various regional governments are currently preparing their IR applications, including risk assessments. We will continue to move forward with the necessary procedures, including the implementation of strict regulations,” Kishida explained.

Osaka, Nagasaki, and Wakayama are the only three prefectures prepping bids for consideration. Osaka is partnered with MGM Resorts, Nagasaki with Casinos Austria, and Wakayama with a private equity firm and Caesars Entertainment.

Prefectures and their IR consortiums must submit their plans to the central government by the end of April 2022.