On July 6, the new bill legalizing integrated resorts began legislative review in the Upper House of the Diet. Tokyo Shimbun (July 6) noted that while opponents of the law have raised concerns over the spread of gambling addiction, events over the past year and a half imply that powerful interests within the Trump administration have been successful in nudging Japan's lawmakers toward deregulation.
Just 20 days after Donald Trump was inaugurated, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Washington for a series of meetings. At the first, reported Tokyo Shimbun (July 6), which was held on the morning of Feb 10, 2017, Abe met with 14 business leaders belonging to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The American contingent was represented by corporate leaders from the financial sector, military and aerospace industries and the top three heads of the casino business, including "Casino King" Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands.
Around noon the same day, Abe conferred with Trump for the first time, and later that afternoon the two men and their wives flew to Palm Beach, Florida aboard Air Force One for a golfing holiday at Trump's resort, Mar a Lago.
Adelson is known as a key backer of Trump, having contributed $5 million to Trump's inaugural committee. He has reportedly also pledged to donate to the Republican Party in the upcoming mid-term elections this November. A member of the Jewish faith and also a supporter Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Adelson welcomed the recent move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and even offered to help fund the moving costs.
Adelson's group also owns Singapore's super-deluxe Marina Bay Sands, whose casino North Korea's Kim Jong Un visited on the evening of his arrival in Singapore for last month's summit with Trump.
But back to 2017. In September of that year, Adelson visited the Osaka prefectural government headquarters. In remarks to a group of reporters, he emphasized that Integrated Resorts must turn a profit, and requested that the regulations controlling casinos in the resorts not be subjected to limitations on the amount of floor space.
Also last year, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan made public its views regarding deregulation of financial services offered to casino customers and constraints on the size of floor areas.
Afterwards, the controls on casino floor space that had initially appeared in the government's draft proposal for the new law were removed; the bill also gave approval for casino operators to lend funds to customers to be used for gambling.
Abe's party rammed through the law for establishing Integrated Resorts, which will include casinos, last December. Before it came up for a vote, he had made such remarks as, "IRs will be beneficial in helping to establish Japan as a tourist destination," and "We want to contribute to alleviating social concerns toward Integrated Resorts."
When the matter of U.S. involvement was raised during Diet deliberations in June, Abe replied that the topic of casinos did not come up during his talks with Trump.
When it was pointed out that requests from the U.S. side corresponded almost completely with the new version of the bill, the government emphatically claimed those policies had been decided by Japanese without any outside influence.
Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, bitterly criticized the proposed bill in its present form, remarking, "U.S. casino operators will set up subsidiaries and operate them, and losses by Japanese gamblers will be channeled to the U.S. This selling off of the country is akin to treason."© Japan Today