Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has described the state of arrest – for alleged bribery – imposed on a politician at the forefront of Japan’s push for integrated resorts or “IRs” as casino complexes with tourism facilities are known there, as “very regrettable”.
But Mr Abe (pictured in a file photo) said the IR policy would still be pursued, on the basis it was an economic stimulant aimed at boosting inbound tourism to the country.
“Integrated resorts involve international conference and exhibition halls as well as large hotels. They are entertainment facilities that will be enjoyed by families and help Japan become a country of advanced tourism,” Mr Abe said on Wednesday – as quoted by Kyodo News – during a plenary session of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the country’s bicameral parliament.
The prime minister’s remarks came after he and his governing Liberal Democratic Party were criticised by leading opposition lawmakers during the parliamentary sesson.
Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, had said it was “staggering that a lawmaker has been arrested,” in relation to the IR policy.
According to media reports, he was referring to allegations against Tsukasa Akimoto, a former ruling-party member and lawmaker, over claims of casino lobbying by Chinese online gaming firm 500.com Ltd.
Mr Akimoto is a former state minister of the Cabinet Office, a body that has been in charge of overseeing the nation’s IR policy.
Jiji Press cited Mr Abe as saying he regarded Mr Akimoto’s arrest as a serious issue, but that the national government would “proceed sincerely” with the IR initiative, “fully reflecting discussions” in the recently-activated casino management commission and in parliament.
Japan’s national government said on Tuesday that it would now make public only in February or March its so-called “basic policy” on IRs.
One reason was the wish to insert into the basic policy a new rule concerning communication between gaming-sector operators and government officials in Japan.
Nonetheless according to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent, despite the latest annoucement, Japan’s central authorities plan to stick to a previously-mentioned schedule for the application period during which local governments can seek the right to host such a resort. That has been proposed previously as from early January, 2021, up to July 30 that year.
A maximum of three IRs will be permitted nationally under a first phase of market liberalisation.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters