Japanese Casino Bill Delayed, Could Miss Boat for 2018

Posted on: March 19, 2018, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: March 19, 2018, 12:25h.

The introduction of Japan’s long-awaited IR bill, which will establish a framework of regulation for the country’s future casino industry, is likely to be delayed until at least April.

Japanese casino bill jeopardised
It’s been a tough week for Japanese Prime Minister and casino proponent Shinzo Abe who has denied knowledge of a suspicious land deal that favored an ultra-nationalist organization linked to his wife, Akie. (Image: AFP)

The task force charged with drafting the new rules has failed to reach consensus, prompting concerns that the legislation will arrive too late to stand a chance of passing this year.

The ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) had hoped to get a bill to parliament (the Diet) this month, which would leave plenty of time to spare before the mid-April deadline for legislation.

This would allow sufficient time for parliamentary debate and amendments to be made before the end of legislative session on June 20.

Earlier this month, the LDP said passage in 2018 would allow the first integrated resorts to open in 2025.

Time Running Out

Lawmakers are cutting it fine and yet are no nearer to agreement. The junior coalition partner in government, the Buddhist influenced Komeito, is pushing for tighter controls, with a greater emphasis on the prevention of gambling addiction, while the LDP wants more liberal rules that will be more attractive to foreign investors.

There’s little sign that Komeito is prepared to budge. On Friday, the party published a report revealing it planned to call for an entry fee of at least ¥8,000 ($75) for Japanese citizens and residents, on a par with Singapore’s.  The LDP wants to charge ¥2,000 ($19) for admission.

Meanwhile, the report states Komeito will demand integrated resorts are limited to two or three locations in Japan. The LDP wants four or five.

“It’s extremely important to gain understanding from a wide range of Japanese people by introducing casino restrictions in the world’s best standards,” the Komeito draft said.

The LDP and Komeito are due to launch full negotiations this week as they seek to form a consensus.

Headache for Abe

Matters have not been helped by the corruption scandal swirling around Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, this past week.

On Monday, he was once again forced to deny knowledge of a 2016 deal in which a school run by ultra-nationalists was able to purchase government land at well below market price. Last week the Finance Ministry admitted removing the Abes’ names from documents related to the deal. Aikie Abe was the school’s honorary principle at the time.

There have been calls for the resignation of the prime minister, for whom casinos have been a long-held economic goal.