Japanese PM Abe’s Popularity Shrinks Over Casino Bill, Flood Disaster

Posted on: July 23, 2018, 09:00h. 

Last updated on: July 23, 2018, 08:34h.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s popularity has taken a pummeling following the passage of the country’s casino bill.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been an ardent supporter of casinos for which the public has little enthusiasm. Meanwhile, a new poll has found the public were largely unhappy with the government’s flood response. (Image: Kathy Willens/AP)

According to a poll by the Nikkei Asian Review (NAR) and TV Tokyo, Abe and his cabinet’s approval rating has dipped 7 percent since late June – likely because of a public perception that the government prioritized the bill over the rescue effort during the recent Japanese floods.

The media has accused the government of being unprepared and slow to respond to the disaster. From late June through mid-July, torrential rain triggered the worst landslides and flooding in Japan for over 35 years, leaving 225 dead and injuring thousands more. Over 8 million people were advised to evacuate across 15 prefectures in the southwest of the country.

Casinos Unpopular, Especially with Women

At the same time, a special session of the upper chamber was railroading the casino bill, determined to pass it before the July 22 deadline. It has been a generally unpopular piece of legislation outside Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, and remains so, according to Monday’s NAR poll.

The survey found that 60 percent of respondents were opposed to casinos, with only 27 percent in favor – the 2:1 ratio has been broadly unchanged in polls going back several years.  The NAR poll found that the measure is particularly disliked by women, with 68 percent opposed.

The public was largely dissatisfied with the government’s response to the flooding, with opposition outweighing approval by 46 percent to 39 percent. Japanese media reported that Abe and other high-profile LDP figures were holding a party on July 5 when the deadly floods began in the Kansai region.

Morgan Stanley: Revenues Could Be Lower Than Expected

On Friday, July 20, the Diet passed its casino bill, the Integrated Resorts Implementation Act, which the government hopes will kickstart billions in foreign investment and advance Japan as a tourism-oriented country.

Japan has the potential to be the second-biggest casino gaming market in the world, behind Macau, although Morgan Stanley warned that returned could be “lower than many expected” due to certain regulations in the final bill.

The investment bank said in a note Monday that the decision to limit casino operations to just 3 percent of total gross floor area, along with a 30 percent revenue tax — on top of consumption, real-estate and income taxes — would negatively impact the amount foreign operators were willing to invest.