A bill to counter gambling addiction in Japan might prove hard to pass during the current parliamentary session due to time constraints, according to observers. The current session of the parliament – a two-chamber body known as the Diet – started on January 20 and is due to end on June 18.
The anti-addiction bill could pass before the current parliamentary session ends, since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition holds a majority in both houses of parliament. However, the opposition could still delay a vote.
According to GGRAsia’s sources in Japan, the government and the governing party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), have been discussing since the beginning of this year a measure specifically addressing problem gambling as a whole in Japan. On May 16, Japan’s ruling coalition completed drafting a gambling addiction bill and reiterated the intend to pass such bill during the current session of parliament.
The bill doesn’t specify rules that businesses must follow and penalties for non-compliance, according to a draft of the bill. It broadly mandates the government to form a plan to stop gambling addiction, and states that businesses must cooperate, reported Bloomberg News.
The draft bill, according to GGRAsia’s sources, is said to provide only a basic stance that requires different ministries within the government and a number of industries to take the necessary measures to counter gambling addiction.
In Japan, it is legal to wager on publicly-run horse, boat, motorbike and bicycle races, plus lotteries and football pools. It is also possible to wager on pachinko games. All these activities are regulated by different bodies. For example, the pachinko industry is regulated by the National Police Agency; the lottery industry is supervised by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications; while horse races are regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The fact that the anti-addiction bill will serve as an umbrella for several industries could create some hurdles, as some of these industries are wary of tighter regulations, according to GGRAsia’s sources. When the bill passes, officials are expected to draft new regulations that could outline specific duties of gambling businesses, including restricting access to venues and providing funds to boost counselling.
Banking group Morgan Stanley had suggested in a note in May that the passage of the gambling addiction bill by Japan’s parliament would be “a key indicator” for the opening of casino resorts in the country.
“If the [anti-addiction] bill can be passed by the end of this Diet session (June 18, 2017), it will show the government’s urgency in opening the IRs [integrated resorts],” said the institution.
Morgan Stanley suggested that under that best-case scenario, the IR Implementation Bill itself might be passed by Japan’s parliament in a special legislative session due to run from October to December 2017.
Japan is part way down a path to creating a legal and regulated casino industry, and the government there is currently drafting a second piece of legislation on specifics including how casinos are administered and regulated.
It is likely to be August at the earliest before a steering body made up of Japanese cabinet ministers makes public the outline of the IR Implementation Bill, designed to advance the introduction of casinos in the country. That is according to comments made recently to GGRAsia by a senior official of the Office of Integrated Resort Regime Promotion.
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Chairman of Macau casino operator SJM Holdings