Introduction of Japan’s Gambling Legalization Bill Postponed for Autumn Diet Session

The gambling legalization bill that would lend support to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic growth strategy of including destination casinos to boost the country’s tourism industry, is now up for committee discussion in the lower house of the Japanese National Diet. However, the bill will not be introduced in the ongoing parliamentary session until it ends on June 22, as the legislators still have numerous bills to take up before the current 150-day session ends.

Masakazu Hamachi, a junior member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) explained that there are other government-backed bills competing for priority. Mr. Hamachi has a chair in the committee that holds the discussion for the gambling legislation proposal and has voiced his support for the bill; but he considers it improbable to pass the legislation before the end of the current session, due to the prioritization order being observed in discussing all bills scheduled for legislative deliberation.

The Deputy Secretary-General of the LDP Hiroyuki Hosoda, who heads the legislative group that supports the so-called “integrated resorts” movement, said “I want to pass it in the lower house at the beginning of the next session of parliament, then enact it without fail in the upper house.”

The bill, which Hosoda submitted is actually a two-part process that must pass parliamentary debates before the gambling ban could be finally lifted in Japan. If the legalization bill in support of the integrated resorts attains enactment, the government will then be tasked to take legislative actions within a year, before the country’s gaming industry could launch full operations in Japan’s gambling market.

The proposed gambling legalization bill that is currently up for discussion is one that contains the legal framework for allowing the operation of regulated casinos in Japan. Being the first step to the legalization process, it must first pass the initial round of debates before the second gambling legislation bill containing permanent regulatory measures could move forward. Those who have been pushing for legislations that would lift Japan’s gambling ban hope to pass both bills as early as possible, to give developers enough time in constructing the casino resorts before the holding of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

Although the bill is backed by the ruling LDP, which enjoys majority support in both houses, the gambling legalization movement though is not without strong opposition. Japan Communist Party’s Mikishi Daimon, who has the support of Japan’s bar association, is exerting efforts to prevent the bill from being discussed; voicing concerns over crime and corruption as potential negative repercussions if casinos will be allowed to operate in Japan.

In view of the public’s mixed reaction to the laws that would allow casino operation in the country, as it will eventually lead to the lifting of the nationwide gambling ban, the government released a draft of Prime Minister Abe’s growth strategy in order to impress that his administration is taking a more cautious approach. The draft states, “Integrated resorts are expected to contribute to bolstering tourism, regional activity and industry, but they also require consideration of policy measures to prevent crime, maintain safety, ensure healthy development of youngsters and prevent addiction.” “Therefore, the relevant ministries will continue deliberations taking into account the integrated resorts bill and national debate.”

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