Japan Opposition Parties Seeking to Abolish IR Law

  • New bill set to be submitted on January 20 during first legislative session of 2020
  • Likely to be defeated due to the government holding a majority in both houses
  • Fallout from the bribery scandal involving politicians and gambling companies rumbles on
upper house of the National Diet of Japan
Members of Japan’s main opposition parties are preparing a bill to abolish the Integrated Resorts (IR) Promotion Act. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Showdown on the cards

Members of Japan’s main opposition parties are planning to introduce a new bill on January 20 that seeks to abolish the planned development of resort casinos in the country.

The law that these opposition lawmakers are hoping to eradicate is the Integrated Resorts (IR) Promotion Act of 2016. This move follows a long-running bribery scandal involving high-profile politicians and gambling companies. 

Likelihood of this bill passing

The first regular session of the country’s parliament will take place on January 20. This is when the new bill will be introduced.

However, experts believe that the new casino bill is destined for failure because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political party controls both houses of Japan’s parliament. Therefore, the Liberal Democratic Party should have enough power to prevent this new bill being passed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political party controls both houses of Japan’s parliament

If the integrated resorts bill was dismantled, it would result in millions of dollars worth of preliminary investment funding being lost.

That being said, the Japanese public has long voiced its opposition to gambling expansion in the country. Therefore, many residents would likely welcome the new bill being introduced by the main opposition parties.

Bribery scandal in spotlight

A member of the ruling party in Japan, Tsukasa Akimoto, was arrested in December for allegedly receiving bribes from a Chinese gambling company, 500.com Ltd. This company is looking to receive one of the three coveted integrated casino resort licenses that are up for grabs in Japan.

Akimoto has continually denied all allegations against him, but has stepped down from his position in the ruling party. Five other lawmakers are being investigated for allegedly accepting bribes from 500.com Ltd.

admitted to accepting a political donation of ¥1m ($9,138) from an agent of 500.com Ltd

One of these lawmakers is Mikio Shimoji, the Minister of State for Disaster Management. He has admitted to accepting a political donation of ¥1m ($9,138) from an agent of 500.com Ltd. However, it is illegal for politicians to accept campaign donations from foreign entities. Shimoji has yet to resign from his government position. 

Future of integrated casino resorts

Despite the scandal, the government is keen to proceed with the issuance of these casino licenses. It wants to get the development process underway.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga spoke at the start of the week about how the government remains committed to introducing these resorts in the nation.

The official casino management commission was formed on January 7, 2020. It will have its first meeting on January 10, 2020. 

The next step in the process will be to consider applications from various regions across Japan that would like to host one of the three integrated casinos. Each applicant will need to be accompanied by a partnership with an overseas company. This company must be willing to make a significant investment in the project.

Many global casino firms, including Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International, and Las Vegas Sands Corporation, are hoping to receive an operating resort casino license in Japan. 

Currently, the leading destinations for these three licenses are Yokohama, the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, and Osaka. In recent days, the city of Hokkaido and Chida dropped out of the race due to concerns over disaster and environmental management.

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