Abe Election Win May Improve Odds of Casinos for Japan

Posted on: October 23, 2017, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: October 23, 2017, 08:31h.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored an overwhelming political victory on Sunday, as his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and their coalition partners appeared to have captured two-thirds of the seats in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the national Diet (parliament).

Shinzo Abe election
Shinzo Abe’s success in parliamentary elections could bolster efforts to bring resort casinos to Japan. (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

The results are widely seen as a vote of approval for Abe’s agenda, which covers a wide range of political goals. Those aims include an effort to allow casinos to be built in Japan, which is seen by the gaming industry as one of the last remaining major untapped markets in the world.

First Casinos Still Several Years Away

When the idea of building a casino was first floated, the goal was to have at least one resort venue up and running in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo. However, delays have likely made that target date impossible to reach.

A first piece of legislation which legalized casinos in principle, but did not set details for their implementation, was passed last December. The next step will be an implementation bill that will determine details, such as how many venues will be licensed, after which developers may be able to begin bidding to place casinos in lucrative locations like Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama.

However, public support for the casino plan was questionable at best. A Kyodo news agency poll released soon after the passage of the first gaming legislation saw public approval for Abe and his cabinet slip six percent, with 70 percent of respondents opposing the casino law.

That left the future of casino development in the country in question, particularly if voters chose to take Japan in a new direction. But the results from Sunday’s snap election will certainly give the gaming industry reason to believe that Abe will be able to follow up on his dream of bringing integrated resorts to the nation.

Final Voting Numbers Delayed by Typhoon

According to early results, the LDP and their allies appeared to have won about 312 seats, while opposition parties took about 126. Precise numbers were not immediately available due to the impact of a typhoon, which prevented votes from being counted in 12 precincts.

The win could provide Abe with a legacy as Japan’s “Comeback Kid.” After a summer in which his approval rating fell below 30 percent at times, the election results could run for a third term as LDP leader next year, which would make him Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

What might be most surprising about this is that Abe’s policies aren’t particularly popular among the Japanese public. One of his key campaign points was an attempt to amend the Japanese Constitution to explicitly legalize the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces. That’s part of a hawkish approach to North Korea that didn’t sit well with much of the nation.

“There is an Abe conundrum,” Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo, told the New York Times. “[He] is basically unpopular with voters, [his] policies are not particularly popular, [he] doesn’t get high marks for leadership, and yet he keeps winning in elections.”