Japan’s plan to legalize casinos faces another possible delay.
Keiichi Ishii, Komeito’s policy chief and the junior partner in Abe’s coalition government told Reuters that there are still a lot of hurdles for both the upper and lower houses to clear before enacting the law. According to Ishii, members of his party are still concerned about the effects of gambling on society, leaving them hesitant to take any proactive actions to accelerate the bill’s passage in time before the current Parliament session ends on November 30.
With the end of the current session fast approaching, it’s likely that the Integrated Resorts (IR) bill will once again get tabled and carried over to the early-2015 session.
The latest delay is another major blow to Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to have the country’s first casino up and running in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
More challenges for Abe
If the prospective delay isn’t enough bad news for one day, Abe also saw two of his cabinet members resign over perceived uses of public funds for unscrupulous means. While it doesn’t have a direct effect on the chances of the casino bill getting passed, it does create another form of distraction that the Prime Minister will have to answer to, making it even more difficult to implement new policies and champion the casino bill’s progress.
“Abe’s support will fall, and things will not go as planned, for example enacting the casino law could become difficult,” Tomoaki Iwai, Nihon University political science professor Tomoaki Iwai told Reuters. “Implementing policies will become more difficult.”
“The resignations don’t really directly affect the bill, but they don’t help either,” another source told Reuters, requesting anonymity due to the pending legislation.
Foreign operators continue to wait
While foreign operators continue to monitor the progress of Japan’s casino bill, the prospect of another delay isn’t likely to sit too well with foreign operators with ambitions to develop casinos in what many estimate will be a $15 billion casino market. Melco Crown, the joint venture by Crown Resorts and Melco’s Lawrence Ho, is still holding out hope that the country would legalize casinos in the near future.
The company has promised spending $5 billion if it secured a casino license in the country and Crown Chairman James Packer reiterated the joint venture’s interest in pursuing and exploring opportunities in Japan, “should the decide to develop integrated resorts to compete for tourists on the world stage”.
It sounds like a man who’s more hopeful than he is confident, which goes to show how Japan’s casino bill has recently straddled the line of certainty and uncertainty far too many times for its supporters’ liking.