The likelihood of Japan passing an enabling bill by the end of the current parliamentary session on November 30 to legalise the principle of casino resorts has “declined”, suggested a note on Monday from Union Gaming Research Macau Ltd.
That could also make it hard for Japan to fulfil the current government’s stated policy aim of having one or more casino resorts constructed in time for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
It follows reports from Japan that a senior member of Komeito – a minority political party with support from a Buddhist community movement concerned about casinos hurting Japanese society – was sceptical about the bill’s chances this session.
“The hurdle is quite high for both lower and upper houses to enact it,” said Keiichi Ishii, policy chief of Komeito, according to the Reuters agency on Monday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party does not have an outright majority in the upper house of Japan’s parliament and needs the support of Komeito to ensure the passage there of the bill.
Doubters already appear to have won a pledge from the government to include safeguards for local players that will be inserted somewhere in the two-bill process. The nature and extent of those safeguards is not yet clear.
In other developments it was reported by multiple media outlets that on Monday Mr Abe lost two female members of his cabinet to political scandals.
Yuko Obuchi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, tipped as on track to be Japan’s first female prime minister, stepped down after being accused of misusing campaign funds.
Midori Matsushima, who had the justice portfolio, resigned hours later after being accused of violating election laws.
Although Mr Abe vowed to replace both ministers within 24 hours, Union Gaming analysts Grant Govertsen and Felicity Chiang said in a note: “We believe this turmoil can only make it more difficult for Abe to efficiently move his agenda forward, including a push for gaming legalisation.”
The research house added: “In addition, we note that a Kyodo News Service telephone poll taken over the weekend…indicated that less than half of Japanese persons (48 percent) supported the Abe cabinet, with a total of 40 percent disapproving.”
Reuters reported that a national survey by the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun conducted over the weekend indicated 62 percent of the public opposed the enabling legislation, known as the Integrated Resorts Bill, with only 31 percent in favour.
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"The Hong Kong protests may hurt Macau gross gaming revenue by about mid-single-digit (i.e., half of maximum visitation exposure), which should fade away gradually as people will find alternative ways to visit Macau”
DS Kim, Jeremy An and Christine Wang
Analysts at brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd