New attempt to legalise casinos in Japan

A proposal by pro-gambling groups to legalise casinos in Japan and create an industry worth an estimated US$40 billion a year will come to a head this month.

Japan.- Pro-gambling groups are pushing to legalise casinos in Japan and create an industry worth an estimated US$40 billion a year. This month these groups are moving ahead with a proposal that could be Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s last chance to pass a landmark gaming bill before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

This week, a low-key parliamentary committee is meeting in Tokyo to discuss the proposal. The issue at hands has historically encountered obstruction from members of Komeito, the ruling Liberal Democratic party’s main coalition partner.

The proposal for casino legalisation in Japan follows a prolonged cycle of excitement and disappointment that began in the late 1990s and came close to realisation in 2014. The parliamentary affairs committee meeting on Friday will set out the legislative agenda for the extraordinary Diet session that begins later this month. Casino proponents want to see legalisation accelerated so preparations could be made to build and open Japan’s first casino resort by 2023 to help drive economic revitalisation after the 2020 Olympics.

The session, which will run from late September to late November, is expected to see Mr Abe attempt reignite his economic programme with labour market reform proposals before he concentrates efforts on driving landmark constitutional change at the regular Diet session next year.

There is great expectation within the international gaming industry with this initiative, as well as excitement in a substantial number Japanese companies that could benefit from a change in the law, the agenda for the extraordinary session is now likely to include a debate on the so-called integrated resort promotion bill that would set casino legalisation in motion.

Jay Defibaugh, leisure industry analyst at CLSA, explained that beyond the usual political obstructions the biggest obstacle could be time. Even with the casino bill on the Diet agenda, the time available for debate is tight.