Tuesday, December 1, 2020
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BJP opposes Congress govt’s plans for casinos

Opposition Bhararitya Janata Party (BJP) is protesting the Congress government’s move to encourage the opening of casinos in Puducherry, local media reports. The BJP said...

Offshore casinos too entrenched: Laxmikant Parsekar

Goa’s Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has not been able to put an end to the casino business, despite protests from the public and other...

Japan lawmakers upbeat on casino plan chances

Many Japanese lawmakers are optimistic that a bill that would create the framework to legalize casinos in Japan will be passed this year, but agree that a major obstacle may still be the cautious stance of key coalition member the Komeito Party. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already announced its support of the concept as a means to stimulate growth in the Japanese economy. The drafting of the bill is said to be at an advanced stage. The lawmakers consulted by AGB varied in their degree of personal enthusiasm about the IR project, but they agreed on the factors that will shape the outcome. All of them, for example, stated that there would be no visible progress until after the completion of the unified local elections on April 26, but thereafter the Abe administration would introduce the bill and seek to pass it in the current ordinary Diet session, scheduled to end on June 24. They also agreed that the major obstacle to the Casino Bill is the Komeito Party, which does not share the prime minister’s enthusiasm about the IR concept. Global casino operators have been lining up plans to invest billions in Japan, which is expected to rapidly become one of the world’s biggest casino markets. The legislation failed to pass last year after political scandals triggered snap elections, which returned Abe to power. Keiichiro Asao, the leader of a small, regional political party, appears to be unconvinced of the importance of establishing IRs in Japan, but neither is he opposed. He can see three possible benefits—drawing foreign tourists from Asia, keeping Japanese “high rollers” at home, and offering good employment opportunities at the facilities attached to the casinos—but he isn’t sure that these benefits will really materialize. Representatives Mito Kakizawa and Takatane Kiuchi of the opposition Japan Innovation Party are both confirmed proponents of the Casino Bill. They both point out that although the ruling Liberal Democratic Party supports the bill and has enough votes to secure passage, it is considered to be a lower priority than security policy legislation, and the bill could be dropped if Diet deliberations get bogged down in other controversies. Kiuchi, however, ventures the prediction that there is a 70-80 percent chance for passage of the bill during the current Diet session, which he foresees could be extended into August. Kakizawa hints that he sees passage as being more likely in late 2015, though he certainly hopes that the bill is adopted sooner. In terms of where Japan’s IRs might be sited, there is a consensus that Okinawa has now taken itself out of the running. The newly-elected governor of the prefecture, Takeshi Onaga, has made it clear that he opposes hosting casinos. This is likely to bring a close to the matter for Japan’s southernmost region. The media now identifies Osaka and Yokohama as the leading candidates due to their large populations and their local governments eager to host IRs, but both Kakizawa and Kiuchi suggest that it is simply too early to make any firm predictions. Kakizawa, in fact, believes that it is better not to speculate too much at this stage about locations as it could dampen the support of some local politicians if they understood that their own regions were definitely out of the race. Mito Kakizawa, who is his party’s policy chief and one of the leaders of the movement to bring IRs to Japan, argues sharply against Komeito and the other political forces that oppose the Casino Bill. He dismisses the argument that casinos would automatically bring about a rise in criminal activities, pointing to the fact that Singapore’s casinos did not result in that country becoming a crime-ridden nation. He takes more seriously the concerns about gambling addiction, but he points out that this is already a social problem in Japan due to the existence of pachinko parlors and horse racing. Kakizawa suggests that policies on addiction need to be upgraded in any case, and that the debate surrounding the Casino Bill could be an ideal occasion to do so. In terms of the structure of the bill, it is not yet clear what the Abe administration will propose, but representative Takatane Kiuchi anticipates that foreign companies will take the leading role in operating the casinos, since they will bring the know-how in this field that Japan currently lacks. These operations might be structured as consortiums in which Japanese companies play a part, but Kiuchi feels that they will be largely foreign-owned. The view of Japanese lawmakers, therefore, is that there is a very real prospect that the Casino Bill will pass this summer, depending on whether or not prime minister Abe can win the understanding of his coalition partner, Komeito. It will also depend on how rough a ride he faces in the Diet as he attempts passage of highly controversial bills regarding military affairs, which are much closer to his heart and the top priority for his government.  

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