Opposition makes last ditch appeal against IR bill

Five House of Representatives lawmakers from five separate opposition parties held a press conference within the Diet Building on June 12 in a last ditch attempt to prevent the passage of the IR Implementation Bill through the Lower House.

The press conference was organized by Tomoko Abe of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and also featured Shuji Inatomi of the Democratic Party For the People, Masaharu Nakagawa of the Group of Independents, Tetsuya Shiokawa of the Japan Communist Party, and Denny Tamaki of the Liberal Party.

Their basic arguments were that opinion polls demonstrated clearly that most of the public opposed the legalization of casinos, that the government had not yet spelled out specific policies to minimize harm, and that full parliamentary debate on the relevant issues was being cut short for the sake of the administration’s own political convenience.

Abe pointed out several occasions in Diet debate in which Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Keiichi Ishii demonstrated that he himself did not grasp the actual content of the IR Implementation Bill, which had been largely compiled by bureaucrats without his direct participation.

Another criticism offered by Abe—which is a point that has been made by other critics—was that the government portrayed the establishment of IRs as a policy intended to draw foreign tourists to Japan, while in fact the large majority of visitors were likely to be Japanese people. Also, it is not acceptable, she argued, to leave these policies in the hands of a few pro-casino local governments like Osaka when the social problems that will emerge are likely to affect residents in all parts of Japan.

In spite of this effort by opposition lawmakers to punch holes in the government arguments, the ruling party is expected to terminate debate within the Cabinet Committee on June 13 and send the bill on to the plenary session of the House of Representatives. Passage looks most likely to occur on June 14, at which point the IR Implementation Bill will be sent forward for deliberations in the House of Councillors.