Japan casino bill still an option

By Nicole Abbott
As casinos may prove to be the next catalyst for financial growth following the 2020 Olympic Games, the Japanese Parliament could still debate a bill to legalise casinos before the year is over. According to CNBC, there are expected to be two large resort licences on offer, which are predicted to take $40bn per year.

Kotaro Tamura, a former senator and parliamentary secretary, explained that the government’s increased political capital and their aim to increase inbound tourism are the driving forces behind the potential passing of the casino bill.

In August, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed three officials which supported the casino bill to top spots within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Toshino Nikai, secretary-general; Hiroyuki Hosoda, General Council chairman; and Toshimitsu Motegi, policy chief, all met to confirm their intention to pass the bill during this current parliamentary session, which ends on November 30. Indeed, now that the LDP has an overall majority in upper and lower houses of parliament, there is a strong possibility that the bill could be passed if it comes to a vote.

However, the legalisation of casinos remains a controversial matter; the last poll showed that over 65% of Japanese polled were against the casino bill.

Indeed, the bill was originally submitted in 2015, but subsequently not advanced due to the public’s strong opposition over fears of increasing the gambling addiction rate. Although gambling is illegal in Japan, the pachinko halls (outlets with arcade-style games, where players can win money depending on the games' outcome) has led to an extremely high gambling addiction rate, with 5% of the population suffering from the habit in 2014.

Steven Gallaway, managing partner at Global Market Advisors, has commented that the likelihood of the bill passing this time round remains strong, as Japanese legislators and stakeholders have been educated on the advantages and benefits of casinos by international companies who have expertise in conducting responsible gaming.

Gallaway stated his belief that Japan could match, or even overtake, Singapore’s dominance in the global gaming market: "While I don't ever see Japan becoming the next Macau or Las Vegas, it could likely become the next Singapore. Both countries are politically and economically stable, have diverse levels of international tourism, and are geographically on opposite sides of Asia.”

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