Abe government hammered on casino legalization

Akira Nagatsuma, the deputy leader and policy chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, took the Abe government to task on its advocacy of casino legalization during Monday’s debate within the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives.

Nagatsuma—long known as one of the leading experts on welfare policy among Japanese lawmakers—pointed to data suggesting that Japan was already the most gambling-addicted country among all advanced nations, and demanded to know how the legalization of casinos could thus possibly be regarded as a responsible national policy.

Last year, Nagatsuma led a small delegation of opposition lawmakers to Kangwon Land in South Korea. According to him, the locals reported to his delegation that the existence of the casino had worsened public security and likely had been responsible for dozens of suicides.

While Nagatsuma was directing his questions at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he was briefly heckled from the ruling party benches by lawmaker who demanded that he stop using the term “casino” and instead say “IR.” Nagatsuma turned in the direction of the heckler and shot back: “An IR is a casino! There is always casino in an IR, right?”

Though a small incident, it does demonstrate how proponents and opponents are battling over the terminology to be used to frame the ongoing debate.

Nagatsuma also directly asked Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Keiichi Ishii whether or not it was true that the government intended to license about ten casinos across Japan.

In response to this question and the others, the Abe government provided no specifics and essentially mumbled non-answers.

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