Japan’s legislature — the National Diet — on Wednesday reopened debate on a bill that will legalize casinos in the country. The long-stalled bill may be passed as early as this month, reports suggest.
“It’s fundamental that the profits from casino facilities are returned to society,” said Hiroyuki Hosoda, chairman of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party’s general council, according to Bloomberg. Hosoda is also the head of a cross-party group of pro-casino lawmakers, which is facing immense pressure from opposition lawmakers who boycotted the session.
To get the bill passed, LDP needs the support of Buddhist-backed junior coalition partner Komeito, which has been apprehensive about casinos because of ethical issues like increased gambling addiction and crimes linked to casinos like money-laundering.
The legislation was initially submitted to the Diet in 2013 and, according to Japan Times, LDP’s Diet affairs chief Wataru Takeshita reportedly told Komeito that the party wants the bill to pass through the committee by Friday so that it can be voted on during a plenary session of the chamber on Dec. 6. The aim is to get the bill passed before the session ends Dec. 14.
“Everybody is looking at Japan,” Lawrence Ho, chief executive officer of Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., reportedly said in an interview in Macau on Tuesday. “The Japan legislation seems like it’s finally going forward. I personally have been lobbying it for many, many years. We would be extremely interested and will definitely participate in it, if we are lucky to.”
Frequently referred to as the “casino bill,” lawmakers are attempting to rid it of the negative connotations associated with gambling by calling it the “IR bill” — where IR stands for integrated resorts.
“We are not thinking at all about creating casinos alone. We are thinking of complex entertainment facilities,” Japan Times reported LDP lawmaker Takeshi Iwaya as saying at the committee session of the Lower House on Wednesday.
Lawmakers for the bill argue that it will be responsible for a boom in construction, creation of jobs, increase in the number of tourists visiting the country as well as additional tax revenue for the government. They also suggest that this will help the country maintain the momentum it gains from Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 when it comes to tourism.
However, for a country deeply-rooted in tradition, the ethical values that gambling tramples upon may be reason enough for the bill to be shot down.