Japan’s main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, is due to hold a meeting this week to discuss the principle of debating during the current session of the country’s parliament a draft law to legalise casinos.
Even if the parliamentary party agrees, it does not mean that an enabling bill for casinos could actually be passed in the current session of the Diet, which ends on June 22.
“The main issue is the upper house [of the Diet] which would need a few weeks to discuss the bill,” Mike Tanji, executive advisor to Tokyo-based Gaming Capital Management Inc, told GGRAsia.
Mr Tanji added that the position of the DPJ, the parliamentary membership of which has not unanimously supported the idea of casino legalisation, is central to the success of the bill. He said any suggestion that newly reported divisions inside the Japan Restoration Party (JRP) – which has previously fully supported the principle of legalisation – would damage the bill’s prospects, was of secondary importance.
According to a story filed from Tokyo by Agence France-Presse, the co-chairmen of the JRP – nationalist former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara and current Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto – have gone their separate ways. It is said to be on the issue of Mr Ishihara’s desire to change the post war constitution of Japan to allow for – among other things – expeditionary rather than purely defensive armed forces.
“I would think that both sides of the divided JRP would still support the bill unless Mr Hashimoto’s possible future partner Eda’s group would be against it,” Mr Tanji told GGRAsia. He was referring to Kenji Eda, who split from the minority Your Party grouping in December and has been looking for new political allies.
Union Gaming Research Macau Ltd said in a note on Thursday afternoon Macau time: “While we do not believe that the fracture of the JRP had any material impact on the current behind-the-scenes horse trading going on in relation to bringing the gaming bill up for debate, we do believe it could have an impact on future support for gaming. The JRP, along with the LDP [Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, led by current prime minister Shinzo Abe] and Life parties had pledged 100 percent member support for the gaming bill.”
Union Gaming added: “On a combined basis, these parties hold a very comfortable majority in the lower house of the Diet (74 percent), but a much slimmer majority in the upper house of the Diet (52 percent).”
A Tokyo-based financier who was not authorised to speak on the record additionally told GGRAsia: “I think it’s generally accepted that even if the first bill for casinos is passed in the autumn session of the Diet, it would be very hard for any resort to be constructed and ready in time to coincide with the Tokyo [Summer] Olympics in 2020 and take advantage of the big boost to inbound tourism the games will give the country.”
Prime Minister Abe is on Friday due to visit one of Singapore’s casino resorts – Marina Bay Sands, owned and operated by Las Vegas Sands Corp. The company, which also operates casinos in Macau and the United States, has already shown strong interest in investing in Japan if casino gaming is legalised there.
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