Despite numerous attempts at opening Japan up to casino gambling, nothing much has come out of what has been termed as an interminable quest. But all that could change if a pro-casino group of Japanese lawmakers hit gold on its recent decision to tap Hiroyuki Hosoda, a former chief cabinet secretary and an influential member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), as its new chairman.
The decision to let Hosoda sit at the head of the table could make it a little easier for these lawmakers to submit a bill that would open Japan to casinos and have the attention of the country’s decision-makers, particularly Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who himself has indicated an interest to the idea of legalizing casino resorts in the country. Hosoda is expected to play a critical role in the cross-party casino group’s objective to submit a promotional bill to parliament later this year, at least according to Takeshi Iwaya, the group’s deputy head who told Reuters of the group’s plan of getting Hosoda on board.
Iwaya’s group has long proposed the idea of opening integrated resorts in the country, a move that would not only bring investments into the country, but more importantly, open up the world’s third-largest economy to the revenue stream brought by casino gaming. It’s no secret that Japan’s neighbors, particularly Macau, Singapore, and recently, the Philippines, have adopted this strategy with Macau and Singapore having reaped some significant rewards in the process.
The group of lawmakers who are pro-casino in Japan understand the kind of economic boost of having integrated resorts in the country. Political support, or lack thereof, has been the one of the biggest impediments in trying to make this happen.
But now that this pro-casino group has somebody who has the ear of the administration in its corner, the hope is that the powers-that-be are more receptive to the idea of opening up the country to casino gaming. After all Abe, the country’s prime minister, has gone on record saying that he could see the economic benefits of introducing casinos. While he also cautioned that there needs to be a study made to understand the potential social costs before any decisions are made regarding the issue, the pro-casino group is interpreting his openness to the idea as a sign of legitimate interest.
As far as the pro-casino lawmakers are concerned, opening up the country to at least two large-scale integrated resorts will have tremendous economic benefits for the country. Japanese people are already active gamblers in their own way and instead of letting these people go to Macau, Singapore, or the Philippines to get their gambling fixes on, the country stands to gain tremendously if they play on their home soil while also attracting foreigners to make the trip to Japan instead.
According to broker CLSA, the Japanese gaming market, if opened, could potentially be worth up to $10 billion annually, a number that could make it the second largest gambling market next to Macau.
That’s what’s potentially at stake here. The pro-casino group of lawmakers in Japan understand what lies on the other end of that rainbow should the country decide to go to it. To help their cause, they tapped influential member of the ruling LDP party as its new chairman with the hope that he can facilitate meaningful discussions that would lead to the country finally opening its doors to casino gaming.