Japan Passes IR/Casino Bill Despite Heavy Opposition Criticism

The Upper House of the Japanese Diet approved on Friday a bill that authorizes the construction of up to three integrated resorts with casino gaming floors. The move completes a two-phase process of legalization of casino gambling in the country and creation of a gaming hub that is anticipated to outshine Las Vegas and other established destinations.

The Integrated Resort Implementation Bill has been heavily supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well as by the party’s coalition partner Komeito and the opposition Japan Innovation Party.

Prime Minister Abe believes that integrated resorts with gaming floors would help the country further boost its tourism industry as properties of this kind would attract millions of foreign visitors. The bill was passed by the Diet’s Lower House last month.

Japan’s casino legalization effort has met staunch opposition on its path to passage. That opposition manifested itself yesterday, as well, as opposition leader Yukio Edano launched a filibuster during a Lower House debate earlier in the day that lasted nearly three hours. Mr. Edano leads the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Opponents of the legalization of casino gambling in the country have been arguing that the move would only result in a jump in gambling addiction rates, which is the last thing a nation already hooked up on pachinko gambling needs. According to a 2017 survey by Japan’s Health Ministry, around 3.2 million adult members of the country’s population are suffering from or had suffered from one form of gambling addiction or another.

In addition, some analysts believe that Japanese nationals would account for between 70% and 80% of all visitors of Japan’s casinos, contrary to the government’s hopes that the gaming facilities would attract predominantly foreigners.

Responsible Gambling Measures

The Japanese government has been criticized for rushing the Implementation Bill through the legislature without properly discussing the risks that could arise from expanded gambling in the country. Prime Minister Abe reiterated yesterday their commitment to implement a legislation that will provide the best gambling addiction prevention tools.

Under the Implementation Bill, Japanese nationals will only be allowed three casino visits per week and ten casino visits per month. In addition, they will have to pay a JPY6,000 entry fee in order to be admitted to the casino floor. Casinos will comprise no more than 3% of the total area of thw integrated resorts, the piece of legislation further reads.

While the Implementation Bill was passed yesterday, there are still a number of legislative points to be discussed in relation to the legalization of casino gambling and the construction of the nation’s first integrated resorts. These points (there are as many as 331 of them) include the creation of a system that would allow casino operators lend funds to patrons. That particular move has been heavily criticized as one risking to result in a rise in the number of gambling addicts in the country.

Japan’s first integrated resorts are not expected to open doors before the mid-2020s as a bidding process for the preferred developers of the properties is yet to be opened and locations where these would be built are yet to be selected.

Aside from Tokyo, Wakayama, Nagasaki, Osaka, and Hokkaido have been among the regions where local governments have expressed interest in hosting a casino resort. In addition, global gambling and hospitality companies have already set up offices in Japan looking to participate in the competition for one of the three gaming licenses that will be issued by Japanese authorities.

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