Japan’s Lower House Passes Casino Bill Supported By Shinzo Abe

Posted on: December 6, 2016, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: December 10, 2017, 10:24h.

Japan’s lower house passes Shinzo Abe’s casino bill
Shinzo Abe is hoping Japan’s casino bill could be enacted as early as Friday, but opposition lawmakers are unhappy about the rushing through of legislation with such important social and economic implications. (Image: Kazuhiro NogiI/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan edged closer to legalizing casino gambling on Tuesday, when its Lower House passed legislation that would pave the way for the introduction of integrated casino resorts to the country.

The bill remains controversial; a recent study showed that more than half of Japanese citizens are opposed to casino gaming, while opposition parties boycotted the Tuesday vote.

Parties including the largest opposition group to the Democrat Party, are concerned about what they see as an attempt to rush the bill through parliament without due concern for its possible social and economic implications.

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling LDP party fully support the bill, much of the deciding vote rested with the Buddhist-influenced Komeito Party, the LDP’s junior partner in the coalition government.

Having failed to agree on an official stance, the party let its members vote at their discretion. Thirty-three Komeito lawmakers attended the session, with 22 voting for the bill and 11 opposing.

Bill has been “Steamrolled”

The bill now heads to the Upper House, but the timeframe is tight; the deadline to get the job done is December 14, when the legislative session ends. With control of the Upper House, the government is hopeful that the bill could be passed at the plenary session of the chamber scheduled for Friday, although it may still be contested vigorously.

“Casino advocates not only forcibly started debates on the bill but steamrolled it through the Lower House committee after only 5 hours and 33 minutes’ worth of deliberation. Such handling is completely disrespectful to the public and we believe the bill isn’t even worth the trouble of voting for or against,” Kazunori Yamanoi, the DP’s Diet affairs chief, told a party-wide meeting this week.

In the event that the legislation does pass, 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.

Late for the Olympics

A final bill would then need to be approved by parliament before the market could be opened up to foreign operators who would likely be required to partner with native companies on joint casino ventures.

Nevertheless, there is no shortage of global casino giants lining up to join what some analysts have predicted could become the second biggest market in the world after Macau. Companies such as LVS and MGM have pledged to invest multiple billions in the market.

Abe has been a proponent of casino gaming ever since he came to power in 2012, seeing it as part of a broader economic plan. He had hoped to get the bill passed in 2014, so that the first resorts would be up and running in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

That ship has now sailed, and it’s unlikely that any of the proposed casinos will open before 2022.