The government will submit a casino implementation bill that stipulates how to operate integrated resorts (IR) that include casinos to a regular Diet session to be convened on Jan. 22. It will start discussions with the ruling bloc as early as this month to flesh out important matters to be included in the bill, such as the number of areas for opening casino facilities. But it is going to be difficult for the bill to be enacted as the Japanese public deeply opposes casinos and the opposition parties are poised to question the bill at the Diet.
A supplementary resolution of the “IR promotion bill,” passed in 2016 and stipulating IR’s basic principles, states that the number of areas for opening casino facilities be “strictly limited to a small number.” The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito will discuss the issue and are expected to settle on two or three locations. Municipalities in Hokkaido, and the prefectures of Osaka, Wakayama, and Nagasaki are bidding to host casinos. An official of the Nagasaki prefectural government says, “Settling for two locations works in favor of big cities. But regional cities may have a chance if the government decides on three locations.”
Meanwhile, there is deep opposition to the introduction of casinos. When the government sought public comments last year, many voiced concerns, making it hard to say that the public fully understands the IR promotion bill. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) will thoroughly highlight gambling addiction and other harmful effects of casino introduction at the Diet in a bid to scrap the bill.
There are also differences in degrees of enthusiasm in the ruling parties in regard to opening Japan’s doors to casino gambling. Komeito wants to prioritize the enactment of a basic bill to tackle gambling addiction, which remains under deliberation. So there is a rumor that serious deliberation on the IR promotion bill will be postponed to the autumn or later.
But some in the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe say, “The IR promotion bill should be enacted no later than the end of the year” because a series of events related to the Emperor’s abdication and the accession of the new emperor are scheduled in 2019 after a unified local election in April. A government source says, “Next year there will not be an appropriate environment for the Diet to debate casinos. We’ll attend Diet sessions with full awareness that this year is the last chance.”