Japan could pass legislation to make casinos legal before 2016 wraps up, although the country’s lawmakers will be cutting it close.

japan-pm-shinzo-abe-supports-casino-bill-passage

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a big supporter of legalizing casinos in his country, as is his party, the LDP. The Buddhist-influenced Komeito party, however, still needs to be convinced in order for the bill to pass. (Image: YouTube)

The Kyodo newswire reported Tuesday that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is optimistic that the country’s casino bill will be approved by the Lower House of the Diet in a plenary session on December 6. From there, it will head to the Senate, which has a deadline of December 14 to get the job done.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long been a supporter of legalizing casinos and, who knows, may have even got a few pointers during his recent meeting with former gaming industry bigwig, President-elect Donald Trump. But while the bill has overwhelming support within Abe’s LDP, much depends on the stance of the LDP’s junior partner in the coalition government, the Buddhist-influenced Komeito party.

Komeito has yet to make up its mind on the bill, but is more cautious, due to ethical concerns. The opposition Democratic Party, meanwhile, remains largely against the bill.

IR Bill

On Wednesday, the proposed legislation was debated in the Lower House, as the bill’s backers sought to bring Komeito on board. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, boycotted the debate.

Hiroyuki Hosoda, chairman of the ruling LDP’s general council and head of a cross-party group of pro-casino politicians, stressed the benefits to the economy.

“The economic effects will spread to areas even outside those where [the casinos] are located.” Hosoda said, citing the boom in construction, jobs, tourism, and central and local government taxes that he said the legislation would bring throughout the country.

“It’s fundamental that the profits from casino facilities are returned to society,” he added.

The LDP also emphasized that, while the legislation is known to most as “the casino bill,” it should really be known as “the IR bill,” because it proposes not merely gaming, but integrated resorts. The vision is for all the amenities that have made Las Vegas’ fortunes swing up in the past few years.

Sleeping Giant

Japan has been hailed as the sleeping giant of casino gaming. It’s a market that, if opened up to the world, could be the second-biggest globally, after Macau, with some analysts predicting it could be worth as much as $40 billion down the road.

Naturally, foreign casino companies have promised billions in investment dollars should the bill pass, each desperate to gain a head start in what is likely to be a fiercely competitive bidding process for licenses.

“Everybody is looking at Japan,” Lawrence Ho, chief executive officer of Melco Crown, told Bloomberg this week. “The Japan legislation seems like it’s finally going forward. I personally have been lobbying it for many, many years. We would be extremely interested and will definitely participate in it, if we are lucky [enough] to.”