Japan’s Upper House is deliberating on a bill that will establish a framework for the nation’s impending casino sector. Lawmakers need to find consensus before the looming July 22 deadline for the end of the special legislative session, but a natural tragedy understandably threatens to distract them from the task, GGRAsia reports.

Japan flood disaster

Torrential rain over the past few days has brought the worst flood disaster to Japan in 30 years. More than 70,00 rescue workers are involved in the recovery effort. (Image: Getty)

At least 155 people have died and dozens more were missing on Tuesday after torrential rain caused landslides and floods throughout western Japan.

It’s the highest death toll caused by rainfall in the country for over three decades and around two million people have been evacuated from the region.

With less than two weeks to go, it’s likely that lawmakers will be focused on the humanitarian operation rather than the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill (IRIB), which has little support from the populace.

Abe Cancels Trip

The BBC reports that over 70,000 workers are involved in the rescue operation. Many are digging through the mud in the hope of finding survivors, while the risk of further landslides remains from collapsing hilltops.

On Monday Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has said passing the casino bill this year is a “top priority,” returned early from a diplomatic trip to Europe and the Middle East to oversee recovery effort.

“Our view is that a natural disaster such as this likely introduces a degree of risk to the bill’s passage that hadn’t previously been contemplated,” said Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen in an email to GGRAsia this week.

But he added that the passage of a problem gambling bill last Friday suggested that the legislature “still has the appetite to move forward with the IRIB within the previously expected timeline.”

Gambling Addiction Bill Passes

The Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures is considered to have been the last vital step before deliberations could begin in earnest on IRIB. It passed Friday by a margin of 183-46 in the government-controlled Upper House.

Casinos have the support of the ruling coalition, but the bill is deeply controversial. Last month, a fight broke out on the normally decorous floor of the lower house as opposition politicians tried to stall the bill’s passage.

Abe’s government has been weakened by recent corruption scandals and elections next year are likely to diminish its grip on the upper house, which would make IRIB a heavier lift in 2019.

Should the bill receive approval before July 22, however, the first licenses are expected to be issued in 2020, with the first resorts up and running in 2025.