Japan casino bill set for enactment after clearing Upper House

Japan’s casino bill now looks certain to pass into law after an upper house committee approved the bill, despite opposition from anti-gambling factions.

On Tuesday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party offered to make some revisions in the Casino Bill to address some of the concerns of the Democratic Party, and Chairman Shoji Namba agreed to put the bill up for a vote. Based on support of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Ishin, the revised Casino Bill passed the committee by majority vote.

The revisions that mollified the Democratic Party related to clearer language on making it a requirement that a policy to combat gambling addiction must be formulated and that a review of the law would become required within five years of the beginning of its effectuation.

It is to be noted that while the Democratic Party allowed the vote to be held and thus to pass committee to the plenary session, they all voted against the bill, the smaller opposition parties other than Ishin also voted against the bill, while two ruling coalition Komeito lawmakers on the committee split their votes, one for and one against.

It is also known that the public has generally claimed to be opposed to legalizing casinos due to concerns about problem gambling, as well as organized crime and juvenile delinquency.

On the last day of the Diet session, a plenary session of the House of Councillors is expected to pass the revised bill. But because the text of the bill is now different, it will be sent back to the House of Representatives, which is then also expected to pass the revised bill the same day.

Thus, the Casino Bill will in all probability be enacted on Wednesday.

The move to allow the vote was unexpected but makes sense, according to Michael Penn of Shingetsu News Agency. “The Democratic Party probably changed its position because when the Liberal Democratic Party offered them some revisions, they knew it was all they could get in a practical sense,” he said. “Had they maintained the all-out confrontation, they still couldn't prevent passage of the bill in the end, as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had several means of overpowering them. This way at least they achieved some policy revisions.”

“Whether the Democratic Party retreat was really in their own best interests politically, however, is questionable. Much of the public will probably prefer the Japan Communist Party's more consistent and principled stand,” he added.

The bill will set the framework to create what is expected to become Asia’s second-biggest gambling market after Macau. Estimates vary as to the potential size depending on the number and location of resorts permitted. However, Morgan Stanley has said the market could be worth about $20 billion.

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