For many years, a bill to legalize land-based casinos in Japan was deadlocked in the country's bicameral legislature, the National Diet, despite strong support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
The LDP, along with other minority parties, for years supported the bill referred to as the Integrated Resorts Promotion Bill in hopes to provide funds to the country's budget. However, despite some small momentum, they were unable to push the bill into law due to resistance from the Buddhist-backed party Komeito, who has been adamant about prohibiting gambling in the country due to social concerns.
The issue at hand until recently, with Komeito part of the leading coalition, was that the LDP was unable to secure a majority on the Diet without support from the minority party.
Despite this, during the most recent elections in July 2016, the political landscape in Japan changed. For the first time since 1989, the LDP secured an outright majority of the Diet and no longer required Komeito as part of the coalition.
In a meeting Friday, the Parliamentary Affairs Committee will set forth an agenda for an extraordinary session of the Diet for this September through November. The Financial Times reported that it is likely for a debate of the Integrated Resorts Promotional Bill to be included in the agenda, which is the first step to its passing.
The chances of a bill passing this autumn are less than a coin flip, according to Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia's Leisure Industry Analyst Jay Defibaugh who stated in a note to his clients that there is "less than 50 percent chance that the first stage of the Integrated Resorts Promotion Bill will be passed during the extraordinary Diet session."
Some experts, including Tokyo-based International Casino Institute Chief Executive Takashi Kiso, believe that if the bill is not passed during this session of the Diet, it could be shelved for a significant time as Prime Minister Abe focuses on other matters, like constitutional changes.
"It is kind of the last chance to have this discussion for a while," said Kiso to the Financial Times. "After that, even though Mr. Abe is pro-casino, he is going to start discussing constitutional change and that debate could last forever."
Even if a bill is passed in time for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, which is extremely unlikely, 2023 would be the earliest a casino could open its doors. Supporters of the bill pointed out that the launch of integrated casino resorts could help kickstart the economy after the event. Additionally, the Financial Times suggests that those already invested in promoting casinos in Japan, including Las Vegas Sands, Wynn, Genting and MGM may redirect their efforts elsewhere.
However, at the moment, interest hasn't waned as these casino companies are believed to be committed to building integrated casino resorts if a bill should pass.
GGRAsia reported that online gaming adversary, Chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Sheldon Adelson shared during Tuesday's opening of the Parisian Macao that, "I’m told that this fall the Diet may reintroduce the question of legalizing gaming, and if they do, we will certainly be there as a candidate. And we have incredible iconic buildings to build."
Stay tuned at PokerNews for more developments in the Japanese gaming marketplace.