Japan’s LDP poised to push casino bill

Japan’s ruling party appears poised to re-submit the Bill for the Promotion of Integrated Resort Facilities, better known as the “Casino Bill,” to the current Diet session, which ends in late November.

If the bill is indeed submitted and passed, it would legalize the establishment of a handful of casinos in Japan in the coming years, mainly in certain designated major cities.

Attempts to pass the Casino Bill have been frustrated in the past by the firm opposition of the ruling coalition Komeito Party, a Buddhist-affiliated organization which is concerned about a possible negative effect of public morality, including on gambling addiction rates and organized crime. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of the general Japanese public also opposes the establishment of casinos.

On Friday, however, ruling party policy chief Toshimitsu Motegi expressed the central view of the casino proponents: “These facilities will promote tourism, which in turn will contribute to Japan’s economic growth.”

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi responded, “Even without these facilities we have many tourist resources, and in fact tourism is increasing briskly. There are many in our party who believe this legislation should be handled cautiously.”

Though the two ruling coalition parties remain divided and the Japanese public skeptical, it now appears that Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is indeed planning to push ahead. LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai said, also on Friday, that “as a coalition partner, we expect to receive the understanding and the consent of the Komeito Party… We cannot say there won’t be occasions in which Komeito makes one judgement and our LDP makes a different judgement.”

Japan is seen as the most promising casino market in Asia after Macau, with most of the world’s biggest operators having expressed interest in bidding for a license to operate an integrated resort. However, given the ongoing delays, the original hopes to have a property up and running in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are now unrealistic.

The bill has also appeared on the verge of progressing before, only to become a victim of Japan’s political infighting.

 The legislation fell off the agenda in late 2014 after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called snap elections, calling the bill into question.