Japan’s two governing parties are still deadlocked on more than half the big-picture issues up for debate regarding implementation of a regulatory framework for casinos in that country.
That is according to information emerging from a Tuesday meeting of a joint working party of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner Komeito.
In news emerging from a meeting of the LDP earlier this month, the senior partner considered mid-April as the absolute deadline for consensus if there were to be a chance of passing the Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill in the current session of parliament, which is due to end on June 20.
The two parties are said – following the Tuesday meeting – to have agreed on only five of 11 matters up for debate.
One area of agreement was regarding imposing weekly and monthly limits on casino visits by Japanese citizens and residents once gaming resorts are established.
The joint working group of lawmakers concurred on a maximum of three visits per week, up to a maximum of 10 visits per month, as suggested by the national government.
But the parties could not agree on the key topic of how many resorts should be allowed in the first wave of development.
The LDP side proposed that “four to five” should be considered, to provide a clear path for smaller regions to experience the economic benefits claimed for such projects. Komeito wants the “two to three” mentioned in initial parliamentary discussions when the initial enabling legislation – known as the Integrated Resorts (IR) Promotion Bill – was passed in late 2016
Another area of discord was the size of an entry free to be imposed on locals at the proposed casino resorts. Komeito, the Buddhist-influenced junior partner of the coalition, maintained its demand for a JPY8,000 (US$76) fee, while the LDP proposed JPY5,000. That is still more than a previous government proposal for a JPY2,000 fee, but not enough to impress Komeito members of the joint working group.
Other areas of deadlock, according to information emerging from the meeting, included what limit should apply to the “gaming area” of the resorts.
The government has suggested an absolute limit of 15,000 square metres (161,459 sq feet), and a relative limit of 3 percent of the gross floor area of the entire integrated resort. The LDP wants only a relative limit and not an absolute one, whereas Komeito backs the government’s proposal.
The government has also suggested a gross gaming revenue (GGR) tax either fixed at 30 percent of GGR or on a sliding scale in the range of 30 percent to 50 percent of GGR. The LDP thinks such a tax should be fixed, but lower than 30 percent of GGR. Komeito has not nominated a percentage, but agrees with the principle of a sliding scale.
In terms of the nature of each resort, the LDP would like the specifications to be flexible, to enable local governments to establish a plan suitable to each region, while Komeito believes there should be certain requirements in terms of size.
The LDP wants the gaming resorts to be allowed not only in metropolitan areas, but also regional ones, and wants them to be commercially sustainable and internationally competitive. Komeito highlighted the importance of risk management.
Areas where the two parties did agree included: that Japan’s My Number identification card should be used to verify entry by locals rather than biometric checks; that a casino control commission should have five members, with membership requiring parliamentary ratification; that the IR Implementation Act once on the statute books, should be reviewed five years after the first resort is opened; and that the process for resort launch should be as speedy and efficient as possible, with a minimum of official red tape.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China