Shinzo Abe casino bill likely to pass

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has supported casino legalization since he came to power in 2012. He sees integrated resorts as being integral to his grand plan of boosting the Japanese economy. Barring something dramatic, it looks like he finally has his way. (Image: Reuters)

The Japanese stand on the brink of legalizing casino gaming in their country after a long and arduous journey.

Japans landmark casino bill, which will pave the way for the creation of a number of integrated resorts in the country, was approved by a Senate committee yesterday and is expected to go to a Senate vote on Wednesday.

The committee’s approval was seen as key by the pro-casino movement and all but ensures the bill’s enactment, according to commentators.

Having been passed by the House last week the bill is now very likely to be approved on the Senate floor tomorrow, the very last day of the extended Diet session.

Should the bill pass, as expected, it will not authorize casinos immediately; rather, it will initiate a process for regulators to develop a framework of legislation, including licensing requirements and consumer protections.

Opposition Still Strong

But it will initiate a process that will see the opening up of a market to the world that has the potential to be the second biggest globally, after Macau.

Global casino giants will be clambering over one another for the chance to invest billions in a sector that, it has been speculated, could be worth as much as $40 billion.

The bill remains highly contentious. It’s overwhelmingly supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has control of both houses, but vociferously opposed by opposition parties who feel it has been fast-tracked through the legislature with insufficient debate about the social and economic repercussions.   

An opinion poll published last week found that 44 percent of Japanese opposed the bill, with just 12 percent in support, and 34 percent undecided.

Economic Boom

On Monday, Democratic Party Diet Affairs Committee Chair Kazunori Yamanoi told reporters the party would “take every possible measure” to prevent passage of the casino bill from passing, even hinting that his party might submit a bid of a no-confidence motion against the Abe Cabinet.

The Democratic Party has said it will not take part in a vote on the casino bill and wants it to be resubmitted to the lower house with amendments, although this proposal appears now to have been defeated.

Supporters of the bill highlight the boom in construction, jobs, tourism and central and local government taxes casinos will bring, all integral to Abe’s grand plan to reinvigorate the Japanese economy.

It is not yet known where the new casinos will be built, or how many, although Tokyo, Yokohama and the western city of Osaka are all in the running.