Yoshihide Suga, Japan Prime Minister Frontrunner, Committed to Casino Resorts

Posted on: September 7, 2020, 01:21h. 

Last updated on: September 7, 2020, 01:57h.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary under outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, says he remains committed to pursuing integrated resorts (IR). He would continue the country’s push to legalize commercial gambling if chosen to succeed the longest-serving PM in Japanese history.

Japan casino resort IR Abe PM
Should Yoshihide Suga (pictured) replace Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he says casinos will come to the Land of the Rising Sun. (Image: AFP)

Abe has been at the forefront of Japan’s efforts to transition the country into a more leisure and entertainment destination. In 2016, Abe announced an ambitious plan to grow tourism and welcome 60 million visitors annually by 2030. Part of what’s been called “Abenomics,” the tourism initiatives have been backed by Abe’s controlling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members in the National Diet, Japan’s version of Congress.

Abe’s surprising resignation last month, along with the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic worry, has thrust the IR process into a state of uncertainty. But Saga has affirmed that he would carry on Abe’s IR intentions.

Japan’s central government is still finalizing its Basic Policy on casinos, which was set to be released by July 26, 2020. The country is initially legalizing three IR properties, with candidate sites including Osaka, Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Wakayama.

Backroom Jockeying

Abe is in the middle of his third three-year term. With no clear successor, it presents a chaotic fight for power among his LDP.

Casino resorts are a major component of Abe’s 2030 tourism goal, but with international travel largely remaining on standstill, Suga reaffirming his commitment might differentiate himself from other potential prime minister candidates.

The LDP, along with its allied Komeito party, has controlled Japan for the vast majority of its postwar history. And the LDP will dictate who becomes the country’s next most powerful person.

Government law allows, in terms of an emergency, for the outgoing PM’s party to select his or her successor. The LDP’s members of Parliament, as well as three representatives from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures, will vote on the next prime minister.

“Back-room deals and horse trading are likely to determine who will become the next leader of Japan’s governing party and the country’s prime minister,” an article in The New York Times recently explained.

Odds Favor Suga

Suga has been one of Abe’s closest confidants and reliable allies. He served as the minister of internal affairs and communication during Abe’s first cabinet, and has been Abe’s chief cabinet secretary since December of 2012.

A potential Suga challenger is former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who is a longtime Abe critic. His opposition to Abe policies, including integrated resorts, could leave him with longer odds of assuming the prime ministry.

Reuters reports that Suga has received the backing of several major factions within the LDP. But Ishiba is the public favorite, a recent poll conducted by Kyodo News Agency finding that 34 percent want Ishiba as the next PM, more than double Suga’s 14 percent support.

But since Japan’s citizens do not elect the PM — that’s the job of the lawmakers in the Diet — Suga is the consensus front-runner.