The chances Japan will approve the Integrated Resorts gaming bill, which would allow for land-based casinos, in time for Tokyo's 2020 Summer Olympics are getting slimmer and slimmer as reports claim the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will cease pushing the drafted legislation during the current Diet session.
Japan currently maintains a strict ban on all casinos in the country, this is in spite of strong support to liberate the gaming laws by the country's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the ruling party in the Diet, and minority parties including the Innovation Party and the Party for Future Generations. Industry experts believe that regulated casino gambling in Japan could generate upwards of $40 billion a year for the country.
One reason a bill has yet to pass is the strong criticism from members of the Buddhist-backed Komeito, a party that sits in the governing coalition with Abe's Liberal Democratic Party. Komeito's concerns about the bill stem from what it believes would be a negative impact to the country's society, along with the potential growth of gambling addiction.
When it was first submitted to the country's parliament back in April, many believed the Integrated Resorts bill had a strong chance of passing. It's now believed the current delay in passing the bill has more to do with Abe's upcoming political agenda than offending the minority partner in the Diet's ruling coalition.
The current session of the Diet was originally scheduled to end on June 24, but has been extended to Sept. 27 in order to potentially pass what Abe deems to be important national security legislation.
The casino bill will be handled at a planned extraordinary Diet session. For the current session, we have the security bills.
Despite the current delay, it's still possible the Integrated Resorts bill will be passed before the end of the year. The Japan Times quoted an unnamed Liberal Democratic Party executive stating: “The casino bill will be handled at a planned extraordinary Diet session. For the current session, we have the security bills.”
Regardless of whether the bill is heard by the end of the year, many believe it will be an uphill battle since Komeito has shown no signs of softening its stance — that social detriments will not outweigh the potential economic and tourist benefits to the country.
This isn't the first time a gaming bill in Japan has experienced delays. Some experts believed a bill to legalize land-based casinos in Japan had a good chance of passing in 2014, but hopes were dashed when momentum slowed down late in the year following the resignation of two influential Cabinet Minsters.
In Oct. 2014, the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Yuko Obuchi, who many believed could have a good chance at becoming Japan's first female Prime Minster, stepped down from her position after being accused of misappropriating campaign funds. Not long after, Midori Matsushima, who had the justice portfolio, also resigned after being accused of violating election laws.
If a gaming bill is passed, many believe that in a short-time Japan would host the third largest gaming mecca in the world, just behind Las Vegas and Macau.