Japan’s Lower House Passes Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill

Japan's Lower House Passes Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill

Today, Japan’s House of Representatives passed a piece of legislation designed to pave the way for legalized casino gambling in the country, known as the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill. The legislation will now head to the upper chamber, called the House of Councillors, for consideration, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government hoping to have the measure passed in the current Diet session.

While that may seem a tall order considering the current session is scheduled to end on June 20th, the ruling coalition has called for a extension in order to provide sufficient time for the bill to be debated and approved in the chamber. Making an impassioned plea for lawmakers to embrace casino gambling in the country, the Japanese Prime Minister stated:

“Tourism is a pillar of Japan’s growth strategy. Integrated resorts will create new employment and culture, bolstering Japan’s international competitive power.”

Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill

In December 2016, Japan’s parliament passed a law legalizing casinos, with the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill that followed designed to provide a framework in which the industry will operate, including setting out policies related to regulation, taxation, and dealing with organized crime and gambling addiction.

According to the bill, a total of three integrated resorts will be allowed to be built in Japan, with the first one expected to be open by 2020. Amongst the slew of measures it proposes is the charging of a 6,000 yen ($54) entrance fee for local residents, which will be wavered for foreign visitors, with local people restricted to just three visits per week, or 10 times per month. In addition, casino space dedicated to gambling cannot exceed 3% of the property’s total land space, with the casino’s gross gaming revenue subsequently taxed at a rate of 30%.

Billion Dollar Industry

Japan is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, and also boasts a huge population of 127 million people. Needless to say, international gambling firms are eager to obtain a license to become one of the few legal operators allowed in Japan, and already companies such as Melco Resorts, Galaxy Entertainment Group, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn have pledged to spend billions of dollars constructing high-end casino resorts. As Rory Credland from Clarion Events, explains:

“Japan is one of the [world’s] last three attractive regions, along with Brazil and India.”

Current forecasts estimate a regulated Japanese casino market to be worth between $6 and $15 billion per annum, meaning it would surpass Las Vegas in terms of gambling revenue, and become the world’s second biggest market to Macau, which last year generated $33 billion in gross gaming revenue. If Japan’s casino industry grows successfully, the country may then feel motivated to permit more casinos in the country, which would in turn narrow the gap further between itself and the Chinese gambling hub.

Opposition Mounts

In the meantime, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is still facing formidable opposition as he plows forward with his plan to overcome 15 years of political argument and regulate casinos in Japan. A nationwide poll conducted by Kyodo News over the weekend, for instance, found that 69% of people believed that it was not necessary to pass the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill in the current Diet session.

Moreover, senior members of the center-left Constitutional Democratic Party (CDJ) of Japan, together with five other opposition parties, have told House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima that they were against the parliamentary session being extended to accommodate the bill’s passing. Amongst their chief concerns is a potential surge in the number of gambling addicts in the country post-casino regulation, with the scale of the problem highlighted by up to 5 million Japanese people currently being addicted to pachinko, despite the slots/pinball type game not officially being considered as gambling by authorities.