A pro-casino group of Japanese lawmakers plan to submit a bill to the Diet during the current session, aimed at opening the world's third-largest economy to casino gambling.
The cross-party group includes members from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its coalition partner New Komeito, the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties such as Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Your Party and the People's Life Party.
Although casinos are illegal, Japanese are already active gamblers, and a pinball-like game called pachinko generates some $200 billion in revenue each year - about the same as Toyota Motor Corp. Japan is often touted as the next major casino market after Chinese enclave Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub, which raked in revenue of $38 billion last year.
A large and wealthy population coupled with a proximity to Shanghai and Beijing has the potential to transform Japan into a lucrative gaming center, providing tax revenues to shore up the state's ailing finances, analysts say. Broker CLSA estimates Japan's gaming market could be worth at least $10 billion if two large-scale integrated resorts are approved - more than Singapore's $5.9 billion and Las Vegas' $6.2 billion in 2012.
The cross-party group aims to have casinos up and running by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Submitting a bill would mark progress for a pro-casino camp that has struggled to gain traction for more than a decade even as other Asian countries develop multi-billion dollar resorts to attract tourists and investment. A major roadblock in Japan has been the near constant change in political leadership.
The group's chairman is Hiroyuki Hosoda, a veteran LDP lawmaker and former chief cabinet secretary. Hosoda will have the ear of the administration, an important piece of the puzzle that has been lacking in recent years, Iwaya said.
At the very least, a bill would face resistance from the Communist and Social Democratic parties, both of which worry about crime and other harmful side effects on society, representatives from the small opposition parties said.© Japan Today/Thomson Reuters