Japanese Diet to Extend Legislative Session for Casino Bill
The Japanese Diet is considering extending the current 150-day legislative sessions into the end of June or the beginning of July in order to pass the Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill. The current end of the parliamentary session is June 20. If the bill is passed by the end of the session, most believe a licensing application period would happen later this year, with casino construction to begin in early 2019.
The IR Implementation Bill is not the only legislation affected by the decision. Japanese lawmakers also want to pass a labor reform bill, while some have discussed passing an anti-gambling addiction bill alongside the IR Bill.
While a December 2016 Integrated Resorts Bill assured that casinos would be built in Japan, the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill determines the regulatory framework of how those casinos will do business. Key aspects of the bill being discussed include entrance fees for Japanese residents, visitation limits on Japanese gamblers, how such policies will be enforced, whether markers (casino credit) will be legal, whether third-party junket operators will be allowed, and a host of consumer protection and problem gambling measures.
Anti-Gambling Addiction Bill
One group of Japanese lawmakers want a separate bill to confront problem gambling, compulsive behavior, and other social concerns involved with gambling. That is the so-called anti-gambling addiction bill which is being discussed.
Japan’s House of Representatives approved the anti-gambling addiction bill last weekend, then sent the bill to the House of Councillors, the upper house of the Japanese Diet, for consideration. The Buddhism-inspired Komeito Party, the social conservative coalition allies of Shinzo Abe‘s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), are key supports of Abe’s government. Thus, they have a tremendous influence on the ongoing negotiations over the anti-gambling addiction bill.
Concerns over the effect land-based casinos would have on Japanese society are a key part of the deliberations. One casino operator, Lawrence Ho of Melco Resorts & Entertainment, even said he would include his patented MelGuard facial recognition software in his casino development plan’s package, to help Japanese authorities assure citizens could not visit the casinos too often. Such technologies might be the edge Lawrence Ho needs to win a Japanese casino license.
Komeito Wants to Extend Session
The Komeito Party leaders want to extend the legislative session’s deadline by “about a week”. Several leaders in the Komeito Party say an extension would allow proper deliberation for the many fine points of the IR Implementation Bill.
A spokesman for the LDP echoed those sentiments, telling GGRAsia that the government is concerned that they do not have enough time to assure that all the proper safeguards are in place, unless an extension is added. The senior LDP lawmaker said, “We are short of deliberation time [for important bills]. We cannot help but extend the Diet term.”
The two coalition partners have sparred over the final language of the IR Implementation Bill for months. When the two sides began deliberating in the summer of 2017, there was some concern that the LDP and Komeito could come to a suitable conclusion. US casino company executives complained about the restrictive nature of the bill being described in the Japanese media. At least one suggested in September 2017 that their initial boast of a $10 billion casino investment might end up being more like a $5 billion investment, based upon the regulations passed.
In February 2018, the Liberal Democratic Party announced its IR Implementation Bill’s rough draft, which had an $18 entry fee for Japanese residents who visited a casino. The Komeito Party countered in March 2018 with a plan that included a $76 fee for the Japanese entries into the casino. Later that month, a compromise plan for a $48 entry fee was discussed, yet the haggling continued.
Current Japanese Casino Bill
The current IR Implementation Bill submitted to the House of Representatives on May 22 includes a 30% fixed tax rate on gross gaming revenues, along with a JPY6,000 (US$55) fee for Japanese residents to enter the casino. The $55 fee (according to current exchange rates) would allow entry to the casino for a 24-hour period.
The bill also restricts players to 3 visits to Japanese casinos within a 7-day period. It also would restrict players to 10 total visits over a 28-day period. Previous media descriptions of the legislation discussed 10 visits in a 30-day period, so gamblers receive a better deal from the latest iteration of the IR Implementation Bill. As the latest news shows, though, the negotiations are not complete.
In fact, it appears that negotiations on the Japanese IR Implementation Bill might not be finished for as much as another 6 weeks.