Hopes for early IR bill passage fade

Hopes that the IR Implementation Bill will be passed before the June 20 end of the Ordinary Diet Session are quickly fading as the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is prioritizing its controversial labor policy bill and other matters, including the stalled gambling anti-addiction bill.

It has now been decided that the government will not submit the IR bill to the Diet until April 27, weeks later than IR advocates had been pushing for. Reuters quoted an unnamed but highly-placed source as saying, “We’d have to extend the session for it to pass this time. Without doing so, it will be very difficult.”

An analysis by Japanese brokerage Nomura went so far as to predict that it could take as much as a further year before the IR Implementation Bill is enacted.

When the IR Promotion Act was passed in December 2016, it was supposed to take less than a year before the more detailed IR implementation legislation was to be enacted.

At last month’s ASEAN Gaming Summit, Jay Defibaugh, senior research analyst at CLSA Securities, predicted that it could be as late as 2026 that the first Japanese IR opens its doors. If so, that would prove very disappointing to Osaka in particular, which hopes to have an IR at Yumeshima in time for the 2025 World Expo, which it also aims to host at that location.

On April 4, the ruling coalition Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito party reaffirmed that passage of the Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures needed to come before the IR Implementation Bill. The government’s anti-addition bill was submitted to the Diet last December, but there have been no hearings and no progress on the question of whether or not opposition party ideas will be incorporated into it.

For the time being, pro-IR lawmakers dominate both houses of Japan’s legislature in spite of the general public’s sharp disapproval of the initiative. The opposition’s first real chance to change the fundamental balance of power will likely be in the House of Councillors election in July 2019.