The Cabinet Committee of Japan’s lower parliamentary chamber is expected to start discussions on Wednesday about the bill to legalise casino resorts, a source in the Tokyo financial sector has confirmed to GGRAsia.
“It looks as if Cabinet Committee at the lower house will finally start to discuss the IR Bill tomorrow,” said the person, referring to the Integrated Resorts Bill, and speaking on condition of anonymity as the source is not authorised to comment officially on the topic.
Masahiko Shibayama, the chair of the lower house’s cabinet committee, confirmed to media outlets on Tuesday that discussions will begin on Wednesday, including a question-and-answer session.
That does not mean however that the bill can be passed through both houses of the Diet before the official ending on Sunday of the current parliamentary session. It’s likely to be the autumn at the earliest, before the upper house – the House of Councillors – debates the topic.
Even then, the upper chamber’s assent cannot be taken for granted even though the governing Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) and its coalition partner New Komeito also have a majority there.
At the Japan Gaming Congress held in Tokyo in mid-May, to discuss progress on the IR Bill, Sakihito Ozawa, a member of the lower chamber – the House of Representatives – for the Japan Restoration Party, warned: “It has to pass the upper house, and they [sic] behave differently to the lower house.”
The pro-casino policy is though likely to be a central part of the government’s economic stimulus programme due to be detailed in the next parliamentary session.
“Integrated resorts will be a main feature of my growth strategy,” said Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (pictured) when he visited Singapore’s casinos during an official visit to the Lion City last month.
Last week however The Economist newspaper reported a potential complication for the government and for the smooth passage of the IR Bill – namely Soka Gakkai, a pacifist Buddhist group with a vote canvassing network that backs New Komeito. The newspaper reported that New Komeito “is particularly worried that a backroom compromise” on a separate issue – the government’s wish to reinterpret Article 9 of Japan’s post-war constitution barring her armed forces from going to the aid of an ally – could damage its standing with its vote-winning machine Soka Gakkai at the local elections in the spring.
“One way out of the impasse, and the focus of much rumour, is for Mr Abe to call a snap election for the lower house of parliament before the spring of 2015,” reports The Economist, suggesting that such a move could give him a more powerful mandate, but would also slow implementation of his much-heralded economic and political reforms.
GGRAsia reported on May 30 that Japan’s main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), had reached an agreement with the governing LDP for committee-level discussions on the bill during the current parliamentary session.
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