Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said on Wednesday that legalising casino gambling in the country would help create new jobs and boost investment.
Mr Abe’s comments were made during a leaders’ debate in the country’s parliament, the Diet.
The Japanese prime minister (pictured in a file photo) said gaming facilities would account for only three percent of the total floor area of any casino resort in the country. He added – as quoted by news agency Kyodo – that legalising casino gambling “will bring about growth by inviting various sorts of investment and creating jobs.”
Mr Abe additionally said: “These integrated resorts will be able to be enjoyed by families, not just [used] for business activities or conferences.”
Japan took an initial step towards legalising casinos on Tuesday as the lower house of parliament voted through a bill to legalise in principle casino gambling. But, according to media reports, some opposition members walked out of the chamber before the vote to protest the bill and the way it was fast-tracked through the lower house by Mr Abe’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
A committee of the upper house of the Diet is expected to begin deliberations over the casino enabling bill this week, according to several analysts. There is little wiggle room in the event of delay in voting the enabling bill, as the current extraordinary session of the Japanese parliament ends on December 14.
Opposition leader slams bill
During Wednesday’s parliamentary debate, Democratic Party leader Renho Murata criticized the casino enabling bill. She said allowing casinos would increase gambling-related and other social problems in Japan.
“What is really problematic about the casino bill is that such an institution basically thrives on bets lost by gamblers, who will then get addicted to the thrill to the point where they will resort to borrowing money,” Ms Murata said, quoted by the Japan Times.
“How could this possibly be a growth industry? I think it will debase Japan’s national dignity,” she added.
Wednesday’s leaders’ debate in the Diet was Ms Murata’s first since she took charge of the largest opposition party in September.
“With opposition parties having taken to the media to voice their displeasure post a walk out from the initial debate session/vote and polls showing a rather unenthusiastic public view towards casinos, we think a more balanced approach is likely to be taken in the upper house discussions [regarding the casino enabling bill],” said analysts at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc in a note on Tuesday.
Casino legalisation in Japan will be a two-statute process. After the enabling bill legalising casino resorts at the conceptual level, a second piece of legislation – known as the implementation bill – would detail the specifics: how casinos are administered and regulated; the taxation regime to be applied to them; their location; and the number of licences to be issued.
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Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu
Sanford Bernstein analysts