Japan’s casino management commission will work to balance the potential economic benefits of developing casino resorts in the country with the enforcement of strict regulations, said the commission’s chairman, Michio Kitamura, in a press briefing. Mr Kitamura was speaking on Friday after the first meeting of the commission. The body was formally set up on January 7.
At the closed-door meeting on Friday, the five members of the commission – including its chairman – discussed the rules by which the commission will operate, said Mr Kitamura, a 67-year-old former high prosecutor general of Fukuoka.
During Friday’s meeting, the commission also appointed Takashi Tokunaga as the head of the commission’s secretariat, reported GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent. According to our correspondent, Mr Tokunaga started his career with Japan’s National Police Agency. He was most recently with Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat, overseeing matters related with the legalisation in the country of so-called integrated resorts or “IRs”, as large-scale, multi-use tourism complexes with casinos are known in Japan.
Jiji Press news agency quoted Mr Kitamura as saying: “I plan to supervise our staff at the secretariat so that the commission’s fairness and neutrality will not be questioned.”
At Friday’s news briefing, the commission’s chairman said also that its members would work “with a sense of urgency to build trust with the public over casino business.” He also stressed the commission’s resolve to deal appropriately with casino-related concerns among the public, such as gambling addiction, reported the media outlet.
The commission’s functions include the licensing of gaming at casino resorts: the body is due to define details regarding rules for casino operations. The commission – to be an independent agency under Japan’s Cabinet Office – will also deal with security matters, probity and background checks, inside casinos. It will additionally advise on measures to counter gambling addiction.
Other members of the casino management commission are: Hiroyuki Ujikane, former chief of the National Tax Agency’s Nagoya Regional Taxation Bureau; Michiko Watari, a psychiatrist; Noriko Endo, specially-appointed professor at the graduate school of Keio University; and Tateshi Higuchi, former superintendent general of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
Japan’s national government has vowed to press ahead with IR-related tasks as scheduled, notwithstanding the emerging casino bribery scandal, including allegations against lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto in relation to claims of casino lobbying by Chinese online gaming firm 500.com Ltd. Several members of Japan’s House of Representatives have been questioned by Japanese authorities – on a voluntary basis – for their alleged receipt of cash.
Despite the national government’s plans, minority opposition parties are expected to submit jointly a bill seeking to abolish the IR Promotion Act, an enabling bill passed in 2016 that legalised casino resorts in that country. The new bill is to be submitted to the regular session of the parliament, scheduled to start on January 20.
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Teo Chun Ching
Chief executive of Singapore’s Gambling Regulatory Authority