Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered his opening address to the Diet on January 20, opening the legislative year for the body. While some expected he would comment on the progress of the country’s Integrated Resorts (IR), scandal has apparently forced him to stay mum on the matter, and possibly reconsider timelines.
The Asahi Shimbun notes that Abe made no mention of the casino projects that will be a huge focus of the gambling industry this year. The largely positive address would have been pulled down, perhaps, by the bribery that has now mired that process.
Government sources told Nippon on the same day that the entire process of creating a basic IR policy may get postponed. They cited a need for careful procedures in getting everything rolled out, and fear the bribery scandal, as well as typical critcisms of casinos, may be too much to bowl over right now.
All of this caution comes as the bribery scandal has rocked the government of Japan. According to reports, Chinese sports lottery operator 500.com has been sending illegal money transfers to politicians and aides hoping to gain favor. This scandal has already led to the resignation of Tsukasa Akimoto as the head of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The effects of the scandal reach far beyond a lack of trust in government leaders, as it has led to some within the Japanese government believing that it is better for them to repeal the IR law that was passed nearly two years ago. The bribery scandal coupled with a protracted process to find suitable operators for the gaming licenses has many believing that this is not the time for gambling in Japan.
The question is, what else will Japan do to fill the time, and news cycles? There are very few, if any, measures to be discussed during this upcoming parliamentary session that specifically address stimulating the growth of the economy. And there are already billions being promised by casino operators, money Abe and his supporters can’t ignore.