Japanese legislators are taking one more crack at passing their oft-delayed casino bill.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a group representing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Japan Innovation Party and the Party for Future Generations officially submitted the casino legislation for debate. The hope is that legislators will find time to discuss and approve the casino bill before the current 150-day ordinary session of Japan’s Diet ends on June 24.
Frankly, it’s hard to see why the bill can’t immediately proceed to a vote, given that it’s unchanged from the same bill that failed to come up for a vote last year. The legislation would amend Japan’s constitution to permit casino gambling, paving the way for the introduction of a second bill that would spell out the nitty gritty of casino operations, including the number of licenses, tax rates and so forth.
The LDP’s Buddhist-backed junior coalition partner Komeito reportedly consented to allowing the bill’s submission. Komeito has previously expressed unease about legalizing casinos, saying the Japanese public didn’t understand the full ramifications of venturing down this particular highway to hell. The LDP doesn’t actually require Komeito’s support to pass the bill, but Japanese politicians have traditionally sought to achieve unity before passing controversial legislation.
Earlier this month, Union Gaming Research analysts Grant Govertsen and Felicity Chiang accurately forecast that the bill would be reintroduced in April. The pair also suggested activity surrounding the bill could “heat up” towards the end of May. While the analysts said they were “cautiously optimistic” that the bill would finally gain some legislative traction, they cautioned that “much will need to fall into place to make it a reality.”
Casino operators have long salivated over the prospects of setting up shop in Japan, considered the only Asian market that could rival Macau in terms of revenue generation. The government is believed to be considering allowing two large-scale integrated resorts – one each in Tokyo and Osaka – as well as one or two smaller gaming properties in other cities. Hopes that the first casino would open in time for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo have largely been dashed, with 2021 now pegged as a more realistic launch date.