A bill to legalise in principle casino gambling in Japan could be put to a vote of a plenary session of the lower house in the country’s parliament as early as Tuesday, reports the Kyodo news agency.
It follows successful passage of the measure through a lower house committee on Friday. That occurred after Komeito – a Buddhist-influenced party that is a partner of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s governing Liberal Democratic Party – withdrew its earlier opposition to the committee vote being scheduled for that day.
But Kyodo also reported that two out of the three Komeito members sitting on the House of Representatives’ Cabinet committee – that on Friday nodded the measure through for consideration by the full membership of the lower house – remain opposed to the enabling bill regarding casinos. The news outlet said that was due to concern a legalised casino industry could “worsen the issue of gambling addiction and other social ills”.
Kyodo said Komeito members had failed to come to a consensus on the bill at a party meeting on Thursday, “leaving the decision of how to approach the bill up to the party leadership”.
Commentators on Japanese politics have previously told GGRAsia that a simple majority in favour might not be enough to steer the bill through parliament, as Japan’s political leaders typically seek to broker consensus on potentially controversial issues.
Additionally there is little wiggle room in the event of delay. The current extraordinary session of the Japanese parliament – a body known as the Diet (pictured) – ends on December 14.
Investment analysts from, respectively, Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd, Morningstar Investment Management Asia Ltd and CLSA Ltd – joining a conference panel at last month’s Macao Gaming Show 2016 – agreed the potential legalisation of casino gambling in Japan would be a major development for the industry in Asia.
The cross-party group of Japanese lawmakers sponsoring the “Integrated Resorts Promotion Bill” says casinos could help sustain the flow of foreign tourists to Japan.
Current Japanese law bans casino gambling but allows play on pachinko and electronic gaming machine parlours on the basis that they are pastimes. Japanese law does however allow betting on publicly run horse, bicycle and powerboat races.
Even if the enabling legislation for casinos is steered through the Diet, a second bill will be needed, to deal with the legal and administrative framework of a national casino industry.
Casino operators that have previously shown an interest in investing in Japan include: Bloomberry Resorts Corp; Caesars Entertainment Corp; Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd; Genting Singapore Plc; Las Vegas Sands Corp; Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd; MGM Resorts International; Universal Entertainment Corp; and Wynn Resorts Ltd.
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Chairman of Hong Kong-listed casino investor NagaCorp