Japan Divided over Benefits of Resort Casinos

Two geishas wearing traditional japanese kimonos at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa Tokyo, Japan.

While Japanese businesses are gearing up for a jackpot from resort casinos in the country, the public seems less keen on having more gambling in their communities.

Background to this bill

Casinos were legalized in Japan near the end of 2016 after the issue had been hotly debated for more than 15 years. However, resort casinos were not included in the legalization.

As a result, a separate bill was required to allow these types of casinos in the country. The likes of MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment were said to be very interested in making significant investments.

Many people pushed for the legalization of resort casinos to be allowed. They argued that resort casinos would be a massive boost to local economies because of tourist spending and that they would create jobs.

There were numerous votes on the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill in June, but each time it was not approved. The main reason for this was political. Many of the opponents believed that this bill was being rushed through and that they had not spent enough time debating the issue and getting into the finer details.

One of the opposition parties even submitted a petition to have the chairman of the Cabinet Committee to be removed and came close to filing a no-confidence resolution in the minister of land, infrastructure, transport, and tourism.

The bill would allow a total of three resort casino licenses. This would lead to a strong bidding war, which is naturally beneficial for the country. There have been estimates that each resort casino could generate revenues in the region of $10bn (£7.55bn) annually.

It looked as if the bill would be approved before the current legislative session closed on July 22. However, terrible floods hit the country, leading to more than 200 deaths. The final vote on the bill was delayed, and many believed that it would not be approved before the current session ended. However, the bill did get just over the line and has now been approved.

What happens now?

With the roadmap now in place for the new resort casinos in Japan, foreign operators have begun to look for ideal partnerships that could sway the vote in their favor when it comes to winning one of the three lucrative licenses.

This will be a long process. A Goldman Sachs analyst, Masaru Sugiyama, said about the interest in the resort casino licenses:  “Companies that weren’t willing to come public with their aspirations — we’ll see them be more active with press releases, briefings, blueprints coming out for what kind of projects they want to do and where, and who they want to partner with.”

Many casino groups have already expressed their interest, with MGM saying that they would spend more than $10bn (£7.62bn) on the construction of a Japanese resort casino.

Other notable names in the mix include Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Hard Rock Café International, Genting Singapore, and the Galaxy Entertainment Group. Tomakomai, Yokohama, and Osaka are the current leaders to host these resort casinos.

Those opposed to it

Many groups, from the government to the gaming developers, the tourism industry, the banking industry, and construction industry are likely to benefit from these new resort casinos.

However, not everyone is happy with the bill. A recent poll showed that almost two-thirds of the people surveyed were against the new legislation, while only 27.6% supported it. It wasn’t even very popular among the supporters of the current government; only 47.6% of these people were in favor of it.

Many believe that not enough time was taken to properly deliberate on this new bill and that measures have not been considered to help with the growing issue of problem gambling, as well as an expected increase in the level of crime. There were also widespread protests to the bill continually being pushed in the midst of the recent flood crisis.

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