Lawmakers in Japan finally started discussions over the long-anticipated casino bill at a plenary meeting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. The legislation, submitted to the Diet on April 27, establishes the framework of introducing integrated resorts, which would feature casinos.
The Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill is supported by the ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party, which tries to get the legislation implemented by the end of the regular session on June 20. According to local media reports, the Diet is considering an extension of the legislative session, so that the bill could be approved. If passed as a law, the proposal would allow for the development of up to three integrated resorts where along with the controversial casinos, there would be hotels, retail and tourism facilities, as well as international convention centres. The casinos would charge Japanese nationals an entry fee of JPY6,000 (approx. $55).
The implementation of the bill, however, is strongly challenged by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties, warning that the new casinos will lead to the spread of gambling addiction in the country. During the plenary meeting, Tomoko Abe of the CDPJ said that there are already many people in Japan who are addicted to the pachinko pinballs and other legal forms of gambling. Pachinko machines are similar to pinball games, but they are vertical, rather unique to Japan, and enormously popular as gambling games at thousands of venues across the country.
Despite the strong opposition to integrated resorts and commercial gambling, the Liberal Democratic Party and its Diet partner Komeito have more than enough votes to pass the casino bill. Before it was submitted in the National Diet by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet on April 27, the proposal was reviewed by a special committee. Along with the entrance fee for Japanese visitors, it specifies introducing 30 percent gross gaming revenue tax, as well as various measures to deal with problem gambling.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Addresses Lower Chamber
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was an expected speaker at the plenary meeting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. During his address, he pointed out that the planned integrated resorts would promote Japan as a tourist destination and would have an impact on the country’s tourism sector, the regional development and the creation of jobs. The bill includes “perfect measures” to prevent gambling addiction, Abe added, such as limiting the number of visits by Japanese nationals. To minimise the potentially harmful effects of gambling on the society, the Government would implement additional measures, the Prime Minister said.
The Integrated Casino Implementation Bill is now being discussed at the parliament’s lower chamber and if House representatives approve it, it would move to the upper chamber, the House of Councillors. For the proposal to be passed as a law, it needs to be approved by both floors by June 20 when the current parliamentary session ends.