Japan May Not Pass Casino Gaming Law before Legislative Session Ends

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 | Written by April Bergman
Japan May Not Pass Casino Gaming Law before Legislative Session Ends

The Japanese Parliament might not vote on the much-anticipated casino gambling bill observers have been expecting. For months, gaming industry experts have said that Japan’s lawmakers would pass a “study bill” before the session ends on June 22. The study bill would set the legal framework for casino betting in Japan.

At the Japan Gaming Congress which met last week, enthusiasts became crestfallen as they learned that the study bill has less than a 50% chance of passing before the June session ends.

Might Not Make It through Diet in Time

Japan Restoration Party MP Sakihito Ozawa said the bipartisan committee which is charged with seeing the passage of the casino bill through the Diet would have a hard time fitting it into their schedule. Ozawa previously had said the bill had a 90% chance of being passed, but the Diet now has 17 bills up for passage, so it’s hard to see how all those bills would be voted on this session.

IF the bill is to be passed by the Upper House, it must pass the Diet (Lower House) 20 days before the legislative session ends. June 2 is roughly two weeks away and, with 17 bills to consider, some almost have to be left out of the session.

May 30 Is an Important Day

According to the Wall Street Journal, May 30 is the only day with time on the agenda to consider such a plan. Next week, watchers should know the decision of whether the casino bill will be added to May 30th deliberations.

Ozawa himself says that the bill’s chances rest with whether the Liberal Democratic Party has the “guts” to push for its inclusion. The New Komelto Party is not as a party enthusiastic about the casino gambling bill, but leaders in the LDP are trying to win supports from individual members of the New Komelto Party, which is the LDP’s coalition partner at the moment. The New Komelto Party relies on the Buddhist vote, and the Buddhists demographic is historically hostile to gambling.

Communists Are against Casino Gambling

The Communist Party is rallying against the gaming bill, because they see gambling as exploitation of the poor by the rich. Communist MP Mikishi Dalmon told an anti-gaming rally that the key is whether their politicians allow the casino discussion to begin at all.

Meanwhile, reports recently surfaced that the head of the Upper House is against casino gambling at all.

Gaming Industry Experts See a Small Window

The window of opportunity could be closing for a gaming bill at all. Analysts have expected casino gaming initiatives would receive a boost from the expectation of increased demand at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Grant Govertsen of Union Gaming Group says casino projects would have a hard time opening in time before the 2020 Olympics, if the gaming bill is not passed in 2014.

Such talk might be gamesmanship. Previous discussions said that integrated casinos could be open by 2016 or 2017, so the 2020 deadline is not an industry-wide assumption. Still, several gaming industry executives have tried to quell talk which associates the Olympics and the gaming bill, in case this particular deadline passes. Aaron Fischer, a gaming analyst for CLSA, told Bloomberg that CLSA does not view the Olympics as the ultimate deadline for having integrated resorts in Japan.

Jim Murren Urges Quick Action

MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren says it would be a shame if the debate drags on another couple of years. Murren has pledged $10 billion to developing a Japanese casino if MGM Resorts was one of the lucky few to receive a gaming license in the Japanese islands, but said it would be a “tremendous missed opportunity” if the country’s leaders waited two years to make a decision.

Tokyo May Struggle with Labor Shortages

Masao Kaneda is head of a casino project team head at Obayashi Corporation, the Japanese construction giant. Kaneda says Tokyo would have serious trouble completing preparations for the Olympics while also building billion dollar integrated resorts in Tokyo. Calling the labor problem “a very tight situation in and around Tokyo”, Kaneda has suggested the country instead focus on small scale casino project in a regional market. Meanwhile, Chicago-area casino developer Neil Khahn says the best plan is to build a casino in Osaka, which is prepared and enthusiastic about building a resort casino in their municipality.

A common plan for development is the authorization of casinos in large population centers like Tokyo and Osaka, along with smaller regional casinos in more outlying areas. Gaming analysts claim Japan could sustain a $40 billion land-based gaming industry, if lisenced casinos are built.