Election turned negative for Japan casino legislation

Local election outcome, as well as an opinion poll’s results against PM Shinzo Abe “could easily create a headwind” for Japan’s casino legislation.

Japan.- Casino industry legislation seemed to be as close as ever in Japan but recent local election outcome and an opinion poll resulting in a downturn in public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “could easily create a headwind” for its approval, according to a gaming analyst.

Vitaly Umansky, of brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd, told GGRAsia that “continued negative coverage of the Abe administration, coupled with political losses for the Liberal Democratic Party (i.e., Tokyo assembly and Sendai mayoral elections) may reduce support for the gaming agenda, which already has only limited public support.”

Abe’s popularity dropped 10 points, to 26 percent, according to a Mainichi Shimbun newspaper poll cited by Reuters. Furthermore, it indicated that 56 percent (12 points higher) of respondents didn’t back his government.

A potential incapability of reaching cross-party consensus after the election, could result in an obstacle for two bills that are needed to formalise Japan’s casino policy. One of them includes measures to address problem gambling and might be announced as a draft in August for public consultation, whilst the Integrated Resort Implementation Bill, might be passed by the country’s parliament in the 2017 extraordinary session starting in the autumn.

There’s some concerns regarding potential prohibition to Japanese residents from gambling in local resorts that might be enforced in order to calm public fears on problem gambling. In that case, analysts say that the industry would depend on Chinese tourists, and the political relations between China and Japan.

“It is imperative that an IR operator [in Japan] has the stability and visibility offered by a strong locals contribution to gaming revenue. Without this key and dependable segment, the fortunes of the IRs in Japan will have a disproportionately large weighting towards China government policy,” read a note by Union Gaming.

Tensions with North Korea may also be an impediment for casino legislation according to Umansky’s comments to GGRAsia, as the political situation may refocus Japanese government’s energies.

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