Japanese Diet Passes Casino Authorization Bill Despite Opposition Filibuster

Posted on: July 20, 2018, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: July 20, 2018, 12:53h.

Japan is set to open its doors to casino gambling following the passage of the Integrated Resorts (IR) implementation Bill on Friday in the House of Councillors, the upper house of the Japanese parliament.

Japan casino bill passes
A student at the Japan Casino School in Tokyo learns how to work as a croupier at a roulette table. (Image: AFP/JIJI)

The passage follows approval from the House of Representatives, which came approximately a month ago.

Longest Filibuster in Decades Fails to Prevent Vote

The IR bill passed despite a filibuster by Yukio Edano, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. Edano filibustered at an earlier session of the lower house for two hours and 34 minutes, delaying but not preventing a vote on the controversial bill. Still, the action marked the longest filibuster on record in Japan since 1972.

The delays were part of an effort to run out the clock on the special session of parliament, which was set to expire on Sunday. Both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who heads the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and Komeito party leader Natsuo Yamaguchi had pledged that the IR bill would pass before the special session came to a close.

The new law will allow for up to three casino resorts to be established in various locations around the country. Cities and prefectures including Osaka, Yokohama, and Hokkaido have expressed an interest in hosting casino gambling.

Abe has promoted the resorts as a way to bring in more tourists and visitors from foreign countries, as well as a way to revitalize the economy for regions outside of Tokyo. Casinos could also be a significant revenue source for government coffers, with 30 percent of casino revenues slated to be split between host cities and the central government.

Opponents Cite Addiction Concerns

But opposition parties – not to mention much of the Japanese public – have been skeptical about expanded gambling. Japan has a higher rate of gambling addiction than in many other developed countries, with a 2017 study by the country’s health ministry finding that about 3.2 million adults in the nation had suffered from gambling addiction at some point in their lives.

With that in mind, regulations for the integrated resorts have been designed with an eye towards limiting problem gambling among locals. While foreign visitors will be able to enter these casinos whenever they like, Japanese guests will be charged YPN6,000 ($54) to enter for up to 24 hours. People living in Japan will also be limited to three visits per week and 10 visits per month.

Some of the details of the bill will still need to be determined, with 331 points of law reportedly needing to be clarified without deliberations in parliament. These include a provision that would allow casino operators to lend money to players on credit, something critics have argued will only exasperate addiction issues.

While the Japanese public may be cool on the prospect of casinos, the world’s major gaming operators are ready to jump in. Several major firms have said that they would be willing to spend as much as necessary to win a license in Japan. MGM Resorts International CEO and chairman Jim Murren expressed excitement in a statement released after the IR bill was passed.

“Today’s passage allows us to advance our relationships with key stakeholders and together create a coalition of Japanese business partners who will collectively define a vision for a uniquely Japanese, world-class integrated resort,” Murren said.