Lawmakers from Japan’s majority governing group, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), are to press the national government to shorten the process for casino liberalisation, so that a venue or venues can open before the year 2025.
According to information garnered by GGRAsia’s correspondent, consensus on the issue was reached on Wednesday during the fourth in a series of meetings by an LDP task force steering the Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill for casinos through the country’s parliament. At the group’s third meeting on February 28, the LDP lawmakers agreed that without a change of approach by the government, it would be beyond 2025 before any casinos could launch.
According to other news emerging from the latest meeting, the LDP is still making efforts to submit the bill to parliament this month, with mid-April the absolute deadline if there is to be a chance of passing it in the current session of parliament, which is due to end on June 20.
During Wednesday’s meeting other divisions emerged between the stance of the government of LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – effected in coalition with the Buddhist-influenced party Komeito – and the views of the LDP parliamentary task force.
The differences can broadly be said to involve the government wanting clearly-stated parameters on a range of things, and the LDP’s casino steering group preferring a market-driven approach with as much flexibility as possible, in the interests of achieving the economic growth aims behind having the casino liberalisation policy.
According to GGRAsia’s information, the government wants an absolute upper limit on the size of what it terms the “gaming area” in any resort to be set at 15,000 square metres (161,459 sq feet). Any gaming area below that size limit, could still only be a maximum of 3 percent of resort gross floor area. By contrast, the LDP casino task force would prefer the flexibility of no absolute limit to casino space, and just a relative limit as a percentage of gross floor area.
Cities vs regions
There was also some concern in the LDP task force that the idea of limiting the first phase of casino liberalisation to two or three venues, would discriminate against regional would-be host communities in favour of metropolitan areas, pushing the timing of regional developments too far down the road.
The LDP team also suggested that the list of things that must be offered by casino resorts should be broad enough to take account of the special characteristics of regional communities.
Kiyohiko Toyama, the Komeito lawmaker leading that party’s panel on implementation of the casino policy, said in an interview this week with Bloomberg that it would be “extremely hard” for his party to agree to more than three resorts in the first implementation phase of casino gaming in Japan.
While the LDP and Komeito are still to discuss in detail the IR Implementation Bill, the latter party is said to want more time to discuss the proposal, suggesting that it should be submitted to parliament only in April.
The LDP lawmakers also suggested that the rules surrounding the nascent industry should be flexible enough to enable it to be internationally competitive, and not focus only on management of risk in relation to player protection and other social safeguards.
On that topic, Wednesday’s meeting mooted that while the government was proposing either a fixed 30 percent tax on casino gross gaming revenue – or a sliding scale with 30 percent as the starting point – that percentage was probably too high.
Regarding limits on casino use, the government had suggested that Japanese citizens and resident foreigners should be restricted to three visits per week, to a maximum of 10 visits per month. The LDP group wanted only a monthly limit.
It also emerged that the government was still minded to use the “My Number Card” system to monitor casino use by locals, whereas the LDP task force is more inclined to using biometric identification technology.
In June last year, the idea had been mooted of utilising Japan’s citizen number identification regime – known as the “My Number Card” system – to verify the identity of locals entering casinos. But the uptake of the card has been poor, hovering at around 10 percent of the eligible Japanese population, according to a February 20 report by investment bank Morgan Stanley.
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