Casino legalization introduced by Japanese lawmakers
Recently, the Upper House of Japan’s bicameral legislature the National Diet ratified the Integrated Resort Implementation Bill. The passing of this bill opens the door to Japan opening as many as three sizeable integrated casino resorts in the next seven years.
Opposition to the bill
There was opposition to this bill, but it failed. The Nikkei Asian Review and GGRAsia have reported that ratification of the casino bill faced fierce opposition from anti-gambling politicians who lodged several motions of no-confidence to delay the legislative process. However, these motions came to nothing as the 242-seat House of Councilors is controlled by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-casino ruling Komeito and Liberal Democratic Party coalition.
According to GGRAsia, Japan’s Lower House of Representatives ratified the Integrated Resort Implementation Bill in June, and now that it has passed the House of Councilors, local authorities can enter into joint ventures with foreign casino operators to bid for one of three available casino licenses. These licenses could be granted in just eighteen months, in 2020.
MGM Resorts International at the head of the queue for a Japanese license
Among the firms seeking to win a Japanese casino license is MGM Resorts International based in Las Vegas. Jim, CEO and Chairman of MGM Resorts International has released a statement in which he said, “We appreciate the high level of social responsibility reflected throughout the process by creating one of the most comprehensive bills of its kind anywhere in the world.” He has described the legislative process of Japan as ‘transparent’ and ‘very deliberate.’
Murren has stated that MGM Resorts International will ‘advance our relationships with key stakeholders’ to create ‘a coalition of Japanese business partners,’ and ‘define a vision for a uniquely Japanese world-class integrated resort.’ To this end, the company has set up a permanent development team for the Japanese market.
Japanese debt continues to increase
According to the GGRAsia, Japan’s national debt reached its highest-ever levels last December, with the nation’s debt equal to 253% of Japanese GDP. These high levels of debt are being blamed on Japan’s low birthrate and aging population, which has significantly reduced the country’s tax base as the unemployed and retirees remain entitled to various welfare benefits.
By legalizing casinos, Japan hopes to boost its tax revenues and reduce the financial pressure the country is currently facing while also contributing to the tourism market and the local economies of a number of regions outside large cities.
Little support for "fourth arrow" policy
Prime Minister Abe has been advocating his ‘three arrows’ economic policy for a long time. The policy includes structural reforms, fiscal stimulus packages and monetary easing but many refer to casino gambling legalization as the policy’s ‘fourth arrow.’ A poll by Nikkei Asian Review has uncovered that around 53% of the Japanese population opposed the legalization of casinos because of concerns about the impact on gambling addiction rates.