The bill to legalise casinos in Japan will face new delays and might even be scrapped as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (pictured) called a general election for mid-December, says Kazuaki Sasaki, assistant professor at the Nihon University College of Economics and director of IR (Integrated Resorts) Gaming Academy in Japan.
Mr Abe said on Tuesday he decided to delay the second round of sales tax hike by 18 months and that he will call a snap general election for December, after dissolving the lower house of parliament on Friday, November 21.
Last week, media reports in Japan said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had dropped plans to pass the IR bill in the current parliamentary session, which ends on November 30. It was reported that the ruling coalition would try to pass the casino enabling bill during the first of two parliamentary sessions in 2015, which have not been announced yet.
“This could be a setback for the casino legislation in Japan,” Mr Sasaki said on Tuesday in Macau, where he took part in a conference at the Macao Gaming Show.
“While it definitely means new delays, it may even be that the IR bill could be scrapped,” said Mr Sasaki. “In the best case scenario, the Diet [Japanese parliament] may revisit this bill around this time [November] next year,” he added.
That would make it difficult for casino resorts to be ready in time for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, as the government had initially planned.
Casino legalisation in Japan would be a two-statute process. After an enabling bill permitting the principle of casino resorts, a second piece of legislation would detail the specifics, including how they are administered and regulated.
Mr Abe had sought early passage of the casino bill as a pillar of Japan’s growth strategy. The prime minister had classified integrated resorts as a main feature of its government’s growth strategy.
On Tuesday, Mr Abe said the sales tax hike from 8 percent to 10 percent, set for October 2015, would be postponed by 18 months to April 2017 as “the 3-percentage sales tax hike in April weighed heavily on economic growth”.
In order to delay the tax hike stipulated by law, Mr Abe said he is “going to dissolve the House of Representatives on Friday” so as to gauge public opinion over his decision on the sales tax hike postponement.
Japan will call a snap election for December 14, local reports quoted lawmakers from the ruling coalition as saying. The prime minister said that he would resign if the LDP and its ruling partner – the Komeito party – failed to secure the majority in the lower house.
While analysts expect Mr Abe will win December’s election, as the main opposition parties don’t have enough candidates to compete in all electoral districts, questions remain on the size and shape of victory, and whether his coalition can retain its sizeable majority in the lower house.
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Teo Chun Ching
Chief executive of Singapore’s Gambling Regulatory Authority