Japanese lawmakers plan to indefinitely push back a vote on legalising casino gaming in the country, Reuters news agency reports. The move ends hopes of enacting the law in the current session of parliament, three people directly involved in the process told the media outlet.
The current parliamentary session ends on November 30. The postponing of the vote is likely to end the government’s hopes of opening the first integrated resort in time for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
Last month, a note from Union Gaming Research Macau Ltd said the likelihood of Japan passing the enabling bill had declined. It cited the resignations of two members of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, saying it would “make it more difficult for Abe to efficiently move his agenda forward, including a push for gaming legalisation”.
Lawmakers are expected to delay the vote as the prime minister seems to lack the political leverage to pass the bill, according to Reuters. The report said lawmakers will try to carry the bill over to the parliamentary session starting in early 2015, but the sources were quoted as saying there is a chance it would not be passed next year either.
Even if the bill is approved in early 2015, it would make it less likely a casino resort could open in time for the Tokyo Olympics. That is because of the likely scale and complexity of what would be a multibillion U.S. dollar project.
Mr Abe has promoted casino resorts as part of his economic growth programme, and several casino developers from Las Vegas to Macau, including MGM Resorts International and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, have flagged their interest if casino gaming is legalised in Japan.
Such legalisation would be a two-statute process. After an enabling bill – called the Integrated Resorts (IR) Bill – permitting the principle of casino resorts, a second piece of legislation would detail the specifics, including how they are administered and regulated.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China