The Japanese political establishment continues to send mixed signals on the prospects of an enabling bill this parliamentary session to legalise the principle of casinos in the country.
GGRAsia on Wednesday was told by a person with direct knowledge of the matter that a cross-party lobby of Japanese lawmakers intended to use their “best efforts” to ensure the passage of the enabling bill this session.
On Tuesday it was reported by Reuters news agency – quoting three sources it didn’t name – that the first piece of legislation allowing the principle of casinos, known as the IR [Integrated Resorts] Bill, would be delayed “indefinitely”.
The report cited political hurdles, including the resignations of two female members of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet within hours of each other on October 20.
Aki Tsuruoka, editor of Tokyo-based GCM-News, told GGRAsia by email on Wednesday that he had spoken by telephone that morning to Takeshi Iwaya, secretary general of the IR Caucus within the Japanese parliament who said he was still hopeful of the bill passing this session.
Mr Tsuruoka told us: “The IR Caucus had a board meeting this morning to adjust the schedule for discussion of the IR Bill in parliament. Mr Iwaya said they are willing to make best efforts to make sure of the IR Bill passage in this session,” added Mr Tsuruoka.
GCM-News is a service of Tokyo-based casino industry consultancy Gaming Capital Management Inc.
If the first of two pieces of legislation cannot be guided through the Diet by November 30 – the end of the current session – it would need to be held over to the first of two parliamentary sessions in 2015.
Neither of those sessions has been announced yet. But according to Mr Tsuruoka the first one normally runs from the fourth week of January to the fourth week of June – i.e., for a period of 150 days.
If the IR Bill’s passage were pushed toward the end of that session, it would also in likelihood push back the timetable for the second bill – dealing with the regulation and administration of casinos.
It is not yet clear whether the location for casino resorts would be mentioned in the first bill, the second one, or could be resolved by administrative regulation.
At any rate, the two-bill process could leave as few as three-and-a-half years to build and test a resort or resorts with possible price tags of US$10 billion each – numbers mentioned by several foreign casino operators including Las Vegas Sands Corp – were the aim to make them ready in time for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. The latter deadline is one mentioned previously by Japan’s current administration.
Bloomberg News on Wednesday reported Mr Iwaya of the IR Caucus telling media at a briefing that day that he would ensure progress on the bill in the current Diet session. The report didn’t specify if that meant seeking to ensure actual passage of the legislation.
Bloomberg suggested that the support of Komeito – a party that is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s junior coalition partner – could be the key to hastening the initial law.
The media outlet added that Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of Komeito, had suggested in an October 22 interview some concerns that the IR Bill had not had sufficient debate on the principles.
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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