Japanese Diet’s Lower House Likely to Vote on IR/Casino Bill on June 12

Japanese lawmakers postponed on Friday a vote on the Integrated Resort Implementation Bill to avoid backlash ahead of and during today’s Niigata gubernatorial election, local news outlet Japan Times reported citing sources familiar with the matter.

The bill that sets out the principles under which the country’s nascent integrated resort and casino gaming industries will be regulated is currently under consideration by the Japanese Diet’s Lower House. The legislative piece was expected to pass a committee vote this past Friday and be referred to the Upper House for a final vote and enactment, but Lower House lawmakers decided against the move.

The ruling coalition, comprised of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, is set to meet again and discuss the bill’s swift passage on Tuesday, June 12. Upper House legislators would then look to pass the bill before the end of the regular legislative session on June 20.

Following the December 2016 enactment of the so-called IR Promotional Bill that legalized casino gambling in Japan, its sister Implementation Bill needs to be passed in order for the construction of up to three integrated resorts with gaming floors to begin. That second legislative piece contains the rules under which casino gambling services will be provided in the country as well as other necessary clarifications and definitions.

As the end of this year’s regular legislative session looms, lawmakers have discussed its potential extension so that they secure enough time to review and pass the IR bill.

Opposition to Commercial Gambling

The construction of integrated resorts in Japan has been touted by the country’s leaders as a means for international tourists to be attracted. Prime Minister Abe has long maintained that the mixed-use properties will attract foreign investment to the nation and would provide a tourism and overall economic boost.

However, the opposition has been less enthusiastic about the move, citing concerns over the legalization of casino gambling and the impact that would have on a nation that already has a huge number of its population hooked on the highly addictive, locally popular pachinko gaming machines.

According to different studies cited by opposition members over the course of the IR bill debates, most of the visitors at the country’s casinos would actually be Japanese residents.

Crafting the bill, the ruling parties have included companion responsible gambling provisions to address gambling risks concerns raised. Under some of these provisions, Japanese residents will be able to visit casinos only for a limited number of times within a month – they will be allowed no more than ten visits – and will have to pay an entry fee of ¥6,000. There will be no such restrictions for foreign casino patrons.

It is believed that Japan’s integrated resorts with their gaming floors could attract millions of tourists annually. The country is thus anticipated to turn into one of the largest gaming markets in the world with preliminary gross gambling revenue projections ranging from $10 billion to $20 billion.

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