A bill to legalize resort casinos in Japan has been under debate for a long time and the process has been disrupted on numerous occasions due to various controversies. The bill was expected to be finally approved this week, but major floods and landslides have now thrown this into doubt.
Background of this bill
Late in 2016, casinos were finally legalized in the country after almost 15 years of debate and deliberation. However resort-type casinos were not allowed as part of this legislation.
The likes of Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International have been looking to make major investments in Japan with casino resorts. They are expected to be beneficial for Japan because tourism and local economies would be boosted.
The Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill was up for voting multiple times in June, but it was continually pushed back. One of the reasons for this was political turmoil. The opposition petitioned to remove the House of Representative’s Cabinet Committee chairman and came close to filing a resolution of no confidence for the minister of land, infrastructure, transport, and tourism.
The reason for these moves by the opposition is that they claim that not enough time has been provided for them to properly debate the merits of this new bill.
If the bill is approved, only three licenses will be available for resort casinos. This will likely lead to a strong bidding war, as a lot of major gambling conglomerates are said to be very interested. According to early estimates, it is believed that annual profits in the region of $10bn (£7.55bn) would be generated each year by each of these resort casinos.
The latest pushback
The bill had been set to be debated in July in the House of Councillors, which is the upper chamber in the Japanese parliament. There is currently a rush from legislators to push this bill through because the current session will end on July 22.
This seemed to be a reasonable deadline for the bill’s passage before heavy rains over the past week led to catastrophic levels of flooding and landslides. As many as 200 people have been confirmed dead and more than 75,000 emergency responders are trying to find survivors.
While Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister promptly canceled a European visit in order to be in the middle of relief efforts, the opposition has leveled accusations against some of the government cabinet, claiming that they have not been making the relief a priority over the resort casino bill.
Minister for Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Keiichi Ishii was slammed for taking part in debates on the bill for six hours rather than prioritizing the response to the disaster. Shinkun Haku, the lawmaker for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, questioned Ishii, posing the question, “gambling or human life?”
It appears that there is now a significant chance that the bill will not be passed before the session expires due to these unforeseen circumstances. However, a problem gambling bill was passed last week, and many see that as a sign that the legislature still wants to continue forward with the casino resort bill before the end of this session.
The addiction bill was created to deal with the growing issue of problem gambling in the country. There are estimates that 3.6% of the Japanese adult population is dealing with such problems.