The Japanese national government is reportedly planning to delay the release of the final draft of the so-called basic policy for the development of casino resorts in the country. The possibility of the postponement – not officially announced yet – was revealed by government officials on Monday, the start of the regular session of the country’s parliament, according to GGRAsia’s correspondent in Japan.
The possibility of delaying the public announcement of the basic framework – which would determine the central authorities’ guidelines for selecting host cities – comes on the heels of the emerging casino bribery scandal in Japan. The latter includes allegations against former ruling-party member and lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto over claims of casino lobbying by Chinese online gaming firm 500.com Ltd. Mr Akimoto was indicted on January 14 on a charge of accepting bribe money in relation to such lobbying efforts. He was subsequently served with a fresh arrest warrant for allegedly illegally receiving cash in addition to that mentioned in the January 14 indictment.
Mr Akimoto quit the lead governing party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), after the corruption scandal surfaced.
The national government has said a maximum of three integrated resorts or “IRs” – as large-scale casino complexes are known in Japan – will be permitted in the first round of liberalisation.
The government first made public a draft version of the IR basic policy in early September, and a final draft was expected to be published in late January. If postponed, the announcement would then reportedly take place between February and late July, revealed the government officials, according to our correspondent.
According to information collated by GGRAsia’s correspondent, the national government is considering allowing more time before announcing its IR policy to see how the case involving Mr Akimoto proceeds, and whether it might create any backlash in response to the government’s determination to press ahead with the IR initiative. The arrest of Mr Akimoto has reportedly hardened public opposition to the plan to allow casinos in Japan.
The government is reportedly also mulling introducing new rules in its IR basic policy in relation to interactions between would-be Japan casino operators and government officials.
Shinzo Abe’s pledge
Earlier on Monday, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, pledged at the plenary session of the country’s parliament – a body also known as the Diet (pictured) – that his administration would push forward with the development of casino resorts in the country.
Mr Abe’s speech marked the start of the regular session of Japan’s parliament, the same day that four minority opposition parties introduced a bill aimed to scrap the IR framework law.
In his speech at the House of Representatives, Mr Abe said his government would “go ahead” with promoting the establishment of IRs in Japan. He also highlighted the recent establishment of Japan’s casino management commission, a body responsible for the licensing of gaming at casino resorts. The commission will also deal with security matters, probity and background checks, inside casinos.
“The government is going to set up the foundation of the tourism nation at full speed in 2020,” said Mr Abe at the parliament, according to GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent. The Japanese government has mentioned before that the development of casino resorts is a means to help boost the country’s tourism trade.
Mr Abe also said on Monday: “The government is strongly committed to achieving the goal of [receiving] 60 million inbound visitors in 2030.”
A proposal by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, said the national government would start accepting for consideration local authorities’ plans for IRs on January 4, 2021. The proposed closing date for such submissions would be July 30, 2021, according to a November statement.
Despite the possibility of delaying the IR basic policy, the central government is not – at this time – contemplating the postponement of the application period, according to GGRAsia’s correspondent.
Also on Monday, local media reported that four minority opposition parties submitted to the House of Representatives a bill that seeks to repeal the IR Implementation Act, which was passed in 2018, as well as a the IR Promotion Act, which was the enabling bill passed in 2016 that legalised casino resorts in that country.
The four parties are: the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan; the Democratic Party for the People; the Japanese Communist Party; and the Social Democratic Party.
Japan’s governing coalition – the LDP and Komeito – controls a majority in both houses of Japan’s parliament, and therefore the opposition move has little chance of success, according to industry observers.
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