The upper house of Japan’s parliament – also know as the Diet – will only decide next week on a vote regarding a bill to legalise in principle casino gambling in the country, according to a media report.
Japanese newswire service Jiji Press reported on Thursday that the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had decided to drop a plan to push for a vote on Friday (December 9).
According to the news report, the LDP agreed with the main opposition Democratic Party to first hold a hearing on the matter, which will take place on Monday.
There is little wiggle room in the event of delay in voting the enabling bill, as the current extraordinary session of the Japanese parliament ends on December 14. Before the bill can be put to a vote in the upper house, it needs to pass through an upper house committee.
“The upper house cabinet committee is controlled by Mr Namba Shoji, a member of the opposition [Democratic Party]. With this in mind, getting the bill out of the upper house cabinet committee represents a higher hurdle than getting it out of the lower house cabinet committee as the LDP will clearly need to bargain with the chairman,” Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd said in a Tuesday note.
It added: “We note that the cabinet committee of the upper house contains 20 members, of which 11 are LDP members. With this in mind, and under the assumption that the chairman Namba allows a vote, the LDP does not need support of any other parties to pass the bill through committee. Further, given that the LDP also holds an outright majority within the upper house, we would view passage out of the committee as the biggest hurdle.”
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said on Wednesday that legalising casino gambling in the country would help create new jobs and boost investment.
Japan took an initial step towards legalising casinos on Tuesday as the lower house of parliament voted through a bill to legalise in principle casino gambling. But, according to media reports, some opposition members walked out of the chamber before the vote to protest the bill and the way it was fast-tracked through the lower house by Mr Abe’s LDP.
“With opposition parties having taken to the media to voice their displeasure post a walk out from the initial debate session/vote and polls showing a rather unenthusiastic public view towards casinos, we think a more balanced approach is likely to be taken in the upper house discussions [regarding the casino enabling bill],” said analysts at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc in a note on Tuesday.
Several international casino operators, including Las Vegas Sands Corp, MGM Resorts International and Genting Singapore Plc, have expressed interest in participating in a bidding process for a casino licence in Japan if casino gambling is legalised there.
The chairman and chief executive of Philippines casino operator Bloomberry Resorts Corp, Enrique Razon, reportedly said this week that his firm was closely following up developments in Japan, as it is “the biggest market in Asia, outside of China”. He added, as quoted by the Malaya newspaper: “That’s a very interesting market. Japan is a very good market.”
Casino legalisation in Japan will be a two-statute process. After the enabling bill legalising casino resorts at the conceptual level, a second piece of legislation – known as the implementation bill – would detail the specifics: how casinos are administered and regulated; the taxation regime to be applied to them; their location; and the number of licences to be issued.
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"Our rolling chip business [at Tigre de Cristal casino, in the Russian Far East], targeting Asian customers, has achieved substantial growth as we continue to address the underserved Northeast Asian market"
Lawrence Ho Yau Lung
Chairman of gaming investor Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd