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 Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill, designed to advance the introduction of casinos in that country.
That is according to comments made to GGRAsia by a senior official of the Office of Integrated Resort Regime Promotion. That body, also known as the IR Promotion Secretariat, is made up of professional civil servants. The remarks were made on Wednesday on the sidelines of a meeting of a steering group of experts, which is advising the government as a whole on the IR Implementation Bill
The body that will formally make public details of the IR Promotion Bill is called the Integrated Resort Regime Promotion Headquarter, and is headed by the country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and supported by his cabinet ministers.
In August at the earliest, the IR Promotion Secretariat will pass on – on behalf of the Promotion Headquarter – information about the outline of the IR implementation bill, and launch a public comment process, an official told GGRAsia. The person was not authorised to speak publicly about the process.
The official gave no indication of how long the public comment period might last, although Japanese media separately reported that it was likely to be year end at the earliest, before the actual bill would be debated by lawmakers.
It had previously been reported that the IR Implementation Bill might be debated during an extraordinary session of Japan’s two-chamber parliament – an institution known as the Diet (pictured). The next extraordinary session is likely to commence in the autumn and end before calendar new year 2018.
The main topics discussed at Wednesday’s meeting included: the basic policy of casino regulation; testimony from Japanese companies doing business overseas, including gaming technology conglomerate Konami Holdings Corp, and Kyoto-based playing card manufacturer Angel Playing Cards Co Ltd; business entry regulation, barriers and background checks for would-be investors; regulation and background checks for shareholders in integrated resort operators; and integrated resort operational structure.
According to the discussion in Wednesday’s meeting, Japan’s government is said to be looking at the respective regulatory systems in Nevada and Singapore for possible guidance on ways to proceed with its own regulatory processes.
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper separately reported on Wednesday – quoting a draft of the government’s regulation policy that it had obtained that day – that the government aims strictly to screen via licensing those that wish to enter the casino business as operators. It added that those obtaining licences would be required periodically to renew them, but didn’t specify a time frame.
The news outlet stated – referring first to a branch of Japanese organised crime: “To prevent members of yakuza organisations and other antisocial forces from getting involved in the casino business, the draft stipulates that thorough probes will be carried out, focusing on such factors as business relationships of the operators – including their subsidiaries and shareholders – and relationships with those who might join the operations, and whether there is debt involved.”
Checks on would-be operators would be implemented by a casino control commission, which would be an affiliate of the country’s Cabinet Office and would “comprise officials loaned from the National Police Agency”, reported the newspaper.
Wednesday’s meeting of the panel of experts also gave some insight into the likely operational structure for management of Japanese integrated resorts.
Discussions focused on whether an integrated resort – including a casino – would have to be operated by a single entity; although that entity could be a partnership between multiple shareholders.
There was also a suggestion that the operator of an integrated resort would be able to outsource parts of the non-gaming operation, but would not be able to outsource the casino operations.
The Japanese government began work in early April on the IR Implementation Bill, according to a report at the time by newswire service Jiji Press.
The draft statute will detail the specifics for the casino industry in Japan, including how casinos are administered and regulated and the taxation regime to be applied to them.
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Analyst at Roth Capital Partners