Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but Japan is gearing up for another push to legalize casino gambling.
On Tuesday, the Financial Times reported that a committee of Japanese legislators would meet this week to discuss the oft-delayed integrated resort (IR) proposal. The parliamentary affairs committee will decide this Friday on the legislative agenda for the upcoming extraordinary session of Japan’s parliament, the Diet.
There is no guarantee that the so-called IR Promotion bill will make the legislative cut, and even if if does, there may not be enough time in the extraordinary session – which commences later this month and wraps up in late November – to address the always contentious casino question.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party increased its majority in the Diet this summer, theoretically freeing the LDP from requiring the support of its Komeito coalition partner – which has traditionally opposed casino legalization – to make up the votes. And Tokyo’s new governor is keen on a casino’s ability to goose the local economy.
But despite these developments, CLSA analyst Jay Defibaugh issued a note to clients on Tuesday putting the odds of the casino bill passing during the extraordinary session at “less than 50%.”
International Casino Institute CEO Takashi Kiso described the extraordinary session as “kind of a last chance to have this discussion for a while.” With the country’s focus increasingly turning to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the casino discussion could get lost in the shuffle.
Japan has been teasing casino operators for most of the decade with on-again, off-again pushes to amend the country’s constitution to permit casino gambling. When Tokyo was awarded the Olympics in 2013, the hope was that the first gaming venue could open in time to capitalize on the expected tourist influx. More recent timelines for Japan’s first casino have now been pushed back to 2023, and that’s if legislators can pull the cork out over the next 12 months.