Japan Casino Bill Unlikely to Pass National Diet Until 2018

Posted on: September 25, 2017, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: September 25, 2017, 10:38h.

The Japan casino bill currently being worked on in the National Diet might be delayed by the upcoming snap election that will dissolve the parliament’s lower legislative chamber.

Japan casino bill Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is showing the National Diet’s House of Representatives the door, which means the Japan casino bill won’t be considered until 2018. (Image: Thomas Peter/Reuters)

On Monday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced there will be an election to replace the 475 members of the House of Representatives. The vote will occur on either October 22 or 29, the former the more likely date.

The decision to bring in a new chamber means passing the integrated casino resort bill will almost certainly be delayed until the new year.

Under Article 7 of the Japanese Constitution, prime ministers are able to dissolve the membership of the House of Representatives before the scheduled end of the chamber’s full term. Only once since World War II has a prime minister not disbanded the house.

Casino Setback

Abe will reportedly look to support candidates who are focused on education, as well as those who might endorse a constitutional amendment to increase the country’s self-defense. He might also take into account a lawmaker’s willingness to vote in favor of the casino bill.

Known as the IR Implementation Bill, Japan’s Diet has been crafting the commercial gambling legislation for months.

When it’s eventually revealed to the public, it’s expected that the law will authorize two casino resorts, one in Tokyo, and the other in either Osaka or Yokohama. Casino floors will be limited to 15,000 square meters, or 161,458 square feet, and mass market play will be taxed at an effective rate of 22 percent.

Locals will be limited to the number of times they can visit the casino, and might also be forced to pay entrance fees that could run as high as $100.

MGM Resorts, one of the frontrunners for a license, envisions opening its Japan casino in 2025.

More Bad News?

When Japan first revealed it was going to liberalize gambling, nearly every major player in the industry relished the news. One of the planet’s most populated countries, and also one of the richest, operators including Las Vegas Sands, MGM, Wynn Resorts, Hard Rock, Caesars, Melco, and Galaxy Entertainment all expressed great interest in building in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Some even said they’d be willing to invest as much as $10 billion on a resort. But as details have leaked, enthusiasm is waning.

Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of Sands who’s thought to be a leading licensee candidate due to his success operating integrated resorts in Singapore and Macau, said the casino floor restrictions and locals tariff will impede potential gaming win, and therefore warrants “only” a $4-5 billion property.

Delaying the casino bill’s passage to at least 2018 is yet another unwelcomed development to the industry that is waiting patiently for details. As Abe’s popularity continues to decline and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party loses seats, chances of the Japan casino bill being shelved rises.

A July poll shows Abe’s popularity is now less than 30 percent.