Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Shock Resignation Spells Uncertainty for Casino Market: Analyst

Posted on: August 28, 2020, 02:58h. 

Last updated on: August 31, 2020, 01:07h.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday announced his resignation with one year left of his term in office, citing health problems.

Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe has been a fervent supporter of casinos, which have been part of his grand economic plan. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

The 65-year-old whose aggressive economic program — dubbed “Abenomics” — included the creation of a new casino market of spectacular integrated resorts, became the country’s longest-serving prime minister last year. He has for decades suffered from a condition called ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that has recently worsened.

Abe was at times emotional as he addressed a press conference without the aid of a teleprompter to deliver the news and take questions.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to the people of Japan for leaving my post with one year left in my term of office, and amid the coronavirus woes, while various policies are still in the process of being implemented,” he said, as translated by the BBC.

What Happens Now?

The introduction of integrated resorts is one such policy. Japan’s parliament passed a bill calling for the authorization of casino resorts back in December 2016. But regulatory delays have ensued.

The government’s “Basic Policy” — a regulatory framework for the casinos – was supposed to be released by July 26 this year. But the deadline was missed, which will in turn likely delay the submission process for proposals from local governments and their chosen operators, which had been scheduled for between January and July 2021.

The Japanese casino market is expected to quickly become the second-biggest in the world, after Macau. But with the coronavirus cooling interest among some of the world’s biggest operators, and the idea of a gaming market largely unpopular with the public, how safe are Japanese casinos without their most powerful supporter?

Abe’s resignation will automatically trigger a vote within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to find a replacement leader, which will be followed by a parliamentary vote to elect a new prime minister.  

Potential successors include Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, and LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida. According to the BBC, none of the above would be expected to deviate from Abe’s policies in any major way.

Life After Abe

But Niall Murray, chairman of gaming and hospitality industry consultancy firm the Murray International Group, told GGRAsia on Friday that he wasn’t so sure.

Shinzo Abe’s resignation is a significant setback to Japan in general and to the IR industry in particular,” said Murray, a former Las Vegas and Macau casino executive.

“Without Abe at the helm, it might prove difficult to find a leader with the same determination, conviction, and ability to take the steps necessary to bring the Japanese IR industry dream to life,” he continued. At the very least, expect “significant delays.”