Japan’s ongoing efforts to deal with significant flooding and landslides is complicating efforts to approve casino legislation.
Japan’s long-delayed Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill has finally come up for debate this month in the House of Councillors, the upper chamber in Japan’s Diet. Legislators are facing a tight timeline for passing the bill, as the Diet’s current session expires on July 22.
That timeline appeared reasonable before last week’s heavy rains led to the worst flooding and landslides that Japan has endured in decades. As of Wednesday, 176 Japanese citizens had lost their lives and over 75k first responders were attempting to deal with the fallout and find other citizens who are still missing.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (pictured) cancelled a scheduled trip to Europe in order to stay connected with the relief efforts, but opposition parties have accused members of Abe’s cabinet of failing to demonstrate similar priorities, particularly in connection with the IR bill.
On Wednesday, Asia Gaming Brief quoted multiple opposition party members slamming Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Keiichi Ishii for spending six hours attending committee debates on the IR bill instead of focusing on the disaster response.
Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Shinkun Haku demanded to know what Minister Iishi found more important: “gambling or human life?” Other opposition lawmakers called it “truly dumbfounding,” “insane” and “completely abnormal” that Iishi would be “working on the enactment of the casino bill rather than devoting himself to [disaster] countermeasures.”
Earlier this week, Union Gaming Securities Asia analyst Grant Govertsen told GGRAsia that the disaster “introduces a degree of risk to the bill’s passage that hadn’t previously been contemplated.” However, Govertsen added that the Diet’s recent passage of the associated problem gambling bill suggests legislators still have “the appetite to move forward” with the IR bill following the original timeline.
Comments and concerns aside, on Tuesday, the Japan News quoted senior members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito (of which Minister Iishi is a member) saying that the parties would continue to work on enacting the IR bill before the legislative clock runs down.
Japan’s path to legal casino gambling has, at times, appeared downright cursed. It’s been over 18 months since Japan amended its constitution to permit casinos, and that process itself took several years. Will the next two weeks prove decisive, or will Godzilla suddenly emerge from the Pacific and stomp the Diet into dust?