The chances are fading that an enabling bill for casino resorts can be pushed through Japan’s parliament in the current ordinary session, reports Reuters, citing pro-casino lawmakers. The session is due to end on June 24.
It is said that missing that deadline would effectively kill any chance of getting a casino resort open in time to coincide with the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
The sticking point is understood to be Komeito, a Buddhist-influenced political party with 35 seats in the lower House of Representatives that is a junior partner in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government. Komeito has major reservations about casinos, citing familiar arguments by opponents of the industry, including fear of boosting gambling addiction and other social ills.
Mr Abe has a rare advantage for a modern Japanese political leader – an absolute majority in the lower house of parliament, after his Liberal Democratic Party won 291 of its 475 seats in a snap general election in December. But by convention, Japanese leaders try to reach cross-party consensus on decisions deemed socially or politically controversial.
In addition, Mr Abe has other pending decisions on the economy and national security that are said to take precedence over the casino issue.
Pro-casino lawmakers – who see development of a casino industry as bringing fresh taxes and foreign tourists – had hoped to resubmit a previously failed bill by Tuesday, the end of the fiscal year. But they backed away from that plan on Monday after being unable to get the unequivocal backing of Komeito reports Reuters.
Kiyohiko Toyama, a Komeito member who is pro-casino, said he hoped the partner parties would continue to debate the measure at a senior level.
“It’s vital to have all the parties in the integrated resort parliamentary league on the same page,” added Takeshi Iwaya, a senior member of the pro-casino lobby from Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.
“I won’t comment on when we can submit the legislation, but we want to proceed promptly, as soon as the groundwork is done,” Mr Iwaya told a news conference.
According to Reuters, a person involved in the process said it was likely the bill would now be resubmitted in early April.
But another person involved in the process said he expects the current parliamentary session to be extended until August, allowing time for passage of the casino bill after Mr Abe’s priority legislation, including security and defence measures, is out of the way.
If an extension to the current session isn’t granted, the next chance for the casino bill is likely to be in a so-called extraordinary parliamentary session. That has no firm timetable but would be likely to start in the autumn.
GGRAsia reported on March 12 that a special task force of public servants set up to drive the progress of Japan’s casino policy might have to be disbanded were no progress made on the passage of the enabling legislation.
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"People are still pretty reserved in their [gaming] spending. And what the [junket] sector faces now is that the collection of [gaming] debt is difficult"
Kwok Chi Chung
President of the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters