Japan casino bill faces delay after failing to clear key legislative hurdle

TAGs: Genting Singapore, Japan, Marina Bay Sands, sheldon adelson, shinzo abe, Singapore

japan-casino-legislation-stumblesHopes that Japan would pass its casino study bill this year took a hit this week after the legislation failed to clear a crucial legislative hurdle. On Wednesday, a representative on a key committee of Japan’s lower house told the Wall Street Journal the casino bill wouldn’t be on the committee’s agenda during its next session this Friday. The casino bill has reportedly been shunted aside so that committee members can discuss a more pressing matter involving the country’s Atomic Energy Commission.

Having the casino bill discussed at Friday’s meeting was crucial because Japan’s upper house traditionally requires at least 20 days in which to consider a bill before passage and the current parliamentary session ends June 22. An extraordinary session of Japan’s legislature will commence in late-September but it’s an abbreviated sitting and pessimists are already suggesting the casino bill might not get another shot until the Diet’s next regular session in spring 2015.

Japan needs to pass enabling legislation so the government can prepare the legal ground for ending Japan’s prohibition on casino gambling. The government would have one year in which to rewrite its laws before introducing a second bill spelling out the precise legal framework for casino development. Optimists had suggested Japan could be ready to open its first casino’s doors by 2020, the year Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games, but that now seems a tad ambitious.

That is, unless Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson can make Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an offer he can’t refuse. Abe is scheduled to visit Singapore on Friday and had reportedly planned to visit the city-state’s two integrated resort casinos to study how Singapore handled the potential social ills of having a casino in one’s backyard.

On Tuesday, Adelson told an investor conference n New York that he hoped a visit to Marina Bay Sands would convince Abe to lean on Japanese legislators. Adelson said Abe “may just tell an aide to get on the phone and tell the Diet to push [the casino bill] through.” Frankly, if we were the world’s 11th richest person, we’d fill Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool with hundred dollar bills, invite Abe to slather himself with peanut butter, swim a few laps and whatever sticks to him when he comes out is his to keep. Hey, Adelson said he’d do ‘whatever it takes,’ remember?

Meanwhile, Adelson’s crosstown rival Genting Singapore has its own Japanese casino aspirations. In a filing with the Singapore stock exchange, the company announced it had set up eight wholly owned subsidiaries in Japan, including Resorts World Tokyo Co. Ltd., Resorts World Osaka Co. Ltd. and – just to cover all bases – Resorts World Japan Co. Ltd.


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