Contentious in-fighting amongst Japanese lawmakers had all but doomed the possibility of a new casino gambling bill that would revoke Japan’s casino prohibition. The Integrated Resorts Promotion (IR) bill is a necessary precursor to the casino bill which would be crafted sometime next year. It is intended to amend Japan’s constitution in order to revoke casino prohibition. Without passage of the IR bill, casino gambling reform could not be carried forward. A House of Representatives Cabinet committee, on Friday Dec. 2, passed the Integrated Resorts Promotion (IR) bill, which then needed to get through both the lower and upper House. Legislators against the bill vowed to not let the bill get through the lower House, but on Dec. 6, the bill passed in a plenary session vote, leaving only an affirmative vote in the upper House for the bill to become law.
The problem now became that the vote in the upper House has to occur before the current House session ends tomorrow, Dec. 14. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who sponsored the bill, holds a commanding majority in the upper House. A favorable vote is a foregone conclusion, providing there are no last minute defections from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Prime Minister Abe has been the driving force behind casino gambling reform. He has seen plenty of examples in other countries where a robust casino industry has greatly boosted domestic employment and international tourism traffic. But his opponents in the Democratic Party, along with smaller opposition parties, don’t see it that way and want to keep casino prohibition intact. Based on a recent survey conducted Dec. 3-4, the general population are also opposed to casino reform by a 57% to 34% majority.
Assuming the upper House is successful tomorrow, legislators will have one calendar year to craft a new bill that will spell out all of the particulars of casino regulation. This would include how many casinos would be licensed and where they could be built, what safeguards would be put in place to deal with problem gambling, and of course, an all necessary tax scheme. Once all regulations are in place, domestic and international firms would be allowed to apply for casino licenses. Based upon the Japanese market’s huge potential, the competition for licensing could become very competitive.
For nearly ten years, the LDP has been pushing for casino regulation. Legislation to enact casino reform finally made it to the Diet in 2013, but conservative opposition has been successful in preventing any progress, until now. Tomorrow, Dec. 14, looks promising.