The resounding electoral victory Japan‘s voters handed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this weekend should finally ensure passage of the country’s long-awaited casino legislation. Along with its New Komeito coalition partners, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) now controls both houses of the Diet, a parliamentary profile not seen since 2007 and which will endure until at least 2016. All of which makes the imposition of Abe’s economic reforms – including opening up the country to land-based casino gambling – a far more streamlined process.
In truth, any forward progress on the casino front would represent uncharted territory. While Abe’s LDP has long backed providing a full-fledged resort-casino option to Japan’s ubiquitous pachinko parlors, an overabundance of caution fused with incessant partisan bickering has made the dysfunctional US Congress look the very model of efficiency. The right-wing Japan Restoration Party (JRP) got so frustrated by the gridlock that they staged a coup – actually, they just introduced their own casino legislation without asking for anyone’s permission, but the mere act of doing anything made it appear extra dynamic.
Talking with analysts on Wednesday’s post-earnings conference call, Las Vegas Sands boss Sheldon Adelson noted that Sands has been lobbying Japanese politicians about casinos for five years running, and that the delays have been the result of no one party feeling they had sufficient “clout” to push a casino bill through parliament. With that problem solved, Adelson’s understanding is that the LDP will introduce new casino legislation this November, with an “outside limit” of two years to successfully emerge as the law of the land (although Adelson suggested that it could get done a lot sooner).
In the meantime, candidate cities not named Tokyo and Osaka will begin lobbying furiously in order to snag themselves a piece of the resort-casino action. Also lobbying hard will be casino operators such as Caesars Entertainment, which – along with Sands, Wynn Resorts, local outfits like Universal Entertainment and many others – have already professed their undying love to Japan in order to win a piece of an estimated $10b casino market.