Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) resumed on Wednesday in a lower-house committee of the country’s parliament, the Diet, discussions on a bill to legalise – in principle – casino gambling in the country, according to media reports.
On Tuesday, key LDP officials told media that the party would try to vote on this first-stage legislation by December 14, when the current parliamentary session ends.
Diet Affairs Committee chairman, Wataru Takeshita, told a Tuesday press conference that the bill could be voted on by the lower house on December 6. If passed, the bill would then go to the upper chamber.
“We can expect job creation as a direct result of the demand for construction in building the facilities, positive effects on the economy from an increase in both domestic and foreign tourists and a fiscal boost from [taxing] the casinos’ revenue,” Hiroyuki Hosoda, head of the cross-party group sponsoring the bill and an LDP lawmaker, told the relevant lower-house committee, according to a report from Japanese news agency Kyodo.
Local and international media had previously reported that Japan’s Diet (pictured) might debate casino legislation in the lower house during the current extraordinary session.
Japan last considered a version of the first-stage enabling legislation for casinos in 2015. The country’s lawmakers failed to proceed on the matter, amid other political distractions and some domestic opposition. After an enabling bill legalising casino resorts at the conceptual level, a second piece of legislation would need to be passed regarding the specifics, including how they are administered and regulated.
A potential obstacle to the passage of the casino bill by December 14 is the reaction of legislators from the Buddhist-influenced party Komeito – an ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government. Komeito is seen by a number of commentators on Japanese politics as one of the main stumbling blocks to the legalisation of casinos in Japan.
Wednesday’s resumption of deliberations on the bill saw “only minimal opposition” from Komeito lawmakers, the Japan Times newspaper reported, quoting a lawmaker with the party whose name the newspaper did not disclose.
But the Kyodo newswire service said that a Komeito party meeting on Wednesday revealed “continued opposition to the bill”.
Wednesday’s lower house committee meeting was boycotted by members of the parliamentary opposition that are against the legislation, according to several reports in the Japanese media.
Nonetheless, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai said during Tuesday’s news conference, as quoted by the Japan Times: “We do not plan to scrap the bill for now. So it is only natural for us to try to enact the bill by the end of the session.”
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.
Japan has a “ready-made market” for the casino industry, CLSA’s Marcus Liu said, adding that other forms of gambling already legal in that country enjoy high revenue levels. “Every big hitter [operator] in the world would want a piece of that [casino market],” he noted.
One of the international casino investors that recently refreshed its interest in Japan’s casino potential was Malaysia’s Genting group. Its subsidiary Genting Singapore Plc announced last month it was selling its 50-percent stake in a casino project under construction on South Korea’s Jeju Island to – among other things – follow up potential investment opportunities in Japan if the country legalised casino gambling.
Other casino operators that have previously shown an interest to invest in Japan include: Bloomberry Resorts Corp; Caesars Entertainment Corp; Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd; Las Vegas Sands Corp; Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd; MGM Resorts International; Universal Entertainment Corp; and Wynn Resorts Ltd.
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”China has been strengthening the control over capital flow, and the impact of that has already been reflected [on Macau’s gaming revenue trend]. There should not be any bigger impact from the new… legislation [on the mainland] … on the gaming revenue trend here”
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China