Japan’s plan to open up the country to casino gambling has been delayed again, three people familiar with the process told Reuters news agency. It is a blow to the government’s hopes of opening the first integrated resort in time for the Summer Olympic Games in the capital city Tokyo (pictured) in 2020.
Pro-casino lawmakers have given up on the idea of debating a casino enabling bill this month and now aim to start discussions in November, Reuters reports, citing two people directly involved in the process and a third person briefed on the deliberations.
On Monday, a note from Union Gaming Research Macau Ltd said the likelihood of Japan passing the enabling bill by the end of the current parliamentary session on November 30 had “declined”. It cited the recent resignations of two members of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, saying it would “make it more difficult for Abe to efficiently move his agenda forward, including a push for gaming legalisation”.
Such legalisation would be a two-statute process. After an enabling bill – called the Integrated Resorts (IR) Bill – permitting the principle of casino resorts, a second piece of legislation is expected to detail the specifics, including how they are administered and regulated.
All the big Las Vegas casino operators, including Las Vegas Sands Corp and MGM Resorts International, as well as Macau operators Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd and SJM Holdings Ltd have expressed an interest in the Japan market.
Delaying the passage of the IR Bill until the next session, which is expected to start in early 2015, would in turn make it less likely a casino resort could open in time for the Tokyo Olympics. That’s because of the likely scale and complexity of what would be a multibillion U.S. dollar project.
A group of lawmakers supporting the IR Bill had earlier agreed to introduce some changes to the bill in order to gain support of Komeito – a minority political party with support from a Buddhist community movement concerned about casinos hurting Japanese society. The pro-casino lawmakers said casinos should be open to locals, but only residents who meet certain criteria.
Support from Komeito is seen as crucial for the bill since Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party does not have a majority in the Upper House of parliament. Many members of Komeito however still oppose the bill.
Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands, said earlier this month his company would not be interested in investing in Japan or any other country on a foreigners only basis. “We can’t do that. Our business model won’t allow it,” Mr Adelson stated on a conference call with analysts.
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"We’re going to know probably in the next three or four months what the timing is going to be for Osaka"
Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International