Updated June 19:
On Tuesday, June 19, Japan’s full lower house passed the casino bill pushed through by the lower house Cabinet Committee last Friday. The bill — which now passes to the upper house before it becomes law — would go into effect by April 2020 if it sees passage this legislative session.
Dramatic scenes on Friday as opposition lawmakers attempt to delay a vote on the Japan casino bill by crowding around a House of Representatives Cabinet Committee chairman Daishiro Yamagiwa. (Image: Mainichi)
With Wednesday as the last official day of the session, however, it’s almost certain that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition Liberal Democratic Party will extend the session to make sure the bill is enacted before legislators go on break.
June 18: A Japan casino bill was pushed through a House of Representatives Cabinet Committee on Friday, as Diet members elbowed, shoved, and tried to intercede. Opposition lawmakers rushed committee chairman Daishiro Yamagiwa while trying to grab his microphone in a bid to sabotage the bill’s passage.
Despite the mayhem, ruling coalition lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito Party — along with the right-wing-leaning Nippon Ishin no Kai Party — stood up to approve the bill.
Scenes like this are uncommon in the usually sedate Japanese Diet. The last time a fight broke out among lawmakers was in 2015, when a deeply unpopular security bill — which would have permitted Japan to engage in warfare even if the country wasn’t under direct threat — came under fire.
The opposition to the bill stems from a fairly undefined regulatory framework that leaves much to the discretion of authorities, with vague specifics. Many lawmakers are not in line with the bill as it stands, which would give the executive branch its own discretion on 331 items after the measure is enacted, rather than clarifying them from the outset.
Opposition parties — including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Party for the People, and the Japanese Communist Party — know the stakes are high. The ruling coalition is intent on passing the bill before this year’s legislative session ends. With Wednesday as D-Day for the year, stalling tactics have a real chance of success.
Prior to the committee vote, the lower house plenary session was forced to vote down a motion of no confidence against Keiichi IshiiLand, who heads up the Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism department that authored the bill.
Running Out of Time
At a news conference on Friday, General Council Chairman of the LDP Wataru Takeshita said he expects to secure full lower chamber approval of the bill early this week. It will then be fast-tracked to the upper chamber, which is on a tight schedule with several other bills to debate as well.
There is speculation that the coalition will call a special session, extending the legislative period by a week or two to ensure the bill’s enactment. The coalition is determined to push the bill into law before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s planned visit to Europe on July 11.
A Japanese casino market has the potential to be the second-biggest in the world — after Macau — and both Melco head Lawrence Ho and Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson have pledged to invest $10 billion if they can land a casino license.
But polls still show little public support for a Japanese gaming market, and the fight is likely to continue to the last possible minute.