Japan’s Cabinet and Cabinet Secretariat appear to have distanced themselves from any direct involvement in preparatory work ahead of a much-anticipated bill seeking to legalise so-called integrated resorts (IRs) containing casinos.
The position is revealed in a sequence of press releases from U.S.-based The Innovation Group, which provides consulting and management services for the gaming, entertainment, hospitality, sports and leisure, food and beverage and retail industries.
The firm said in a press release dated February 5 that it had been “selected as an industry advisor for the project team chosen by the Cabinet Secretariat of Japan to complete a comprehensive research study corresponding to the proposed integrated resort legislation.”
Three days later, it issued a follow up release saying: “The Innovation Group would like to clarify to [sic] its recent press release regarding services in Japan. The Innovation Group erred in implying that it was engaged directly by the Cabinet Secretariat of Japan, that the Cabinet Secretariat supports gaming legislation, and that legislation is pending.”
The February 8 release added: “Any positions regarding the Japan Integrated Resort IR process attributed to the Cabinet, The Cabinet Secretariat or Japanese officials were made in error and do not represent the current policy of those agencies. The Innovation Group regrets these errors in our statement.”
GGRAsia approached The Innovation Group for clarification regarding for whom it was working if not Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat.
“In response to your questions the press release you referenced relates to the Feb 5th release. We believe the new document speaks for itself and we have no further comment,” said David Rittvo, vice president of international development for The Innovation Group, in an email.
A Japanese source with knowledge of the legislative and administrative process in Japan told GGRAsia: “This is just a study requested by certain officials of the Cabinet and not officially by the Cabinet itself or by the Secretariat.”
The person added: “The IR issue is rather political and the ruling party and Cabinet do not want to have the IR issue seen as being authorised before the passage of the bill – particularly before the general election of the local government to be held in mid-April.”
The IR policy has its roots as a cross-party initiative by some Japanese lawmakers. They believe IRs would complement the domestic economic stimulus policies being pursued by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (pictured), by boosting inbound tourism, creating jobs and generating taxes.
There were close to 12.2 million international travellers to Japan from January to November 2014, a 28.2 percent increase from the prior-year period, said the Japan Tourism Marketing Co in an announcement on January 15. In the first 11 months of 2014, Macau had close to 29 million inbound visitors, a rise of 8 percent year-on-year, according to the city’s Statistics and Census Service. Neither organisation specifies in their arrival data the yield achieved per tourist.
It had been hoped that enabling legislation to legalise casino resorts in Japan could be passed last year; possibly allowing enough time for one or more development to be built and opened to coincide with the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. But there was no time in the extraordinary session of Japan’s parliament – ending on November 30 – for the bill to get a reading.
Given that the bill has not been passed, and that therefore casino resorts are not yet legal, neither the members of the government nor public officials appear to want to be linked directly with such a policy.
It emerged in comments last June by Yōichi Masuzoe, governor of Tokyo, that politicians and public servants in Japan take such protocols seriously.
Any casino project had to be “consistent with the legal system of Japan”, Mr Masuzoe was quoted saying.
Grant Govertsen of Union Gaming Research Macau Ltd, told GGRAsia by email regarding the political progess of Japan’s casino resort policy: “It would appear to us that the Japanese government – or at least the Diet [parliament] – is once again preparing to launch a push to move forward with a gaming/IR bill at some point this year.”
“However, given various sensitivities associated with gaming expansion, we suspect that at the Cabinet level, the Prime Minister would not want to go any further than he already has for the time being, namely his endorsement last summer of the IR concept in general,” added Mr Govertsen.
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Professor emeritus at Whittier Law School in California, in the United States, and a visiting professor at University of Macau