Japanâ€™s lower house has today agreed to debate a bill which would legalise casino gambling in the world's third largest economy.
The bill's supporters, including Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who calls the industry a highlight of his growth strategy, are keen to begin discussions before the current parliamentary session ends on 22 June.
Proponents hope Wednesdayâ€™s debates will provide the momentum to get the bill passed in the lower and upper houses during an extraordinary parliament session in the autumn.
"We have to remind ourselves that this is just the start, and until we see gambling become legal, we must keep up our efforts," said Toru Mihara, an adviser to politicians pushing the legislation.
The bill sets the basic legal framework for allowing casinos.
If it passes, debate will move to a second bill concerning concrete regulations, which proponents hope to pass next year to allow developers to start building resorts in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Major casino operators including Caesars, Las Vegas Sands, Genting and MGM Resorts are all interested in the Japanese casino market, which brokerage CLSA estimates could generate revenue of at least $40bn annually, more than six times that of the Las Vegas Strip.
Lawmakers opposed to the bill, such as the Japan Communist Party's Mikishi Daimon, have attempted to delay its discussion because its large support base makes passage very likely once debate begins.