Last week we discussed the very real potential that Japan may become Asia’s newest, and eventually biggest, casino gambling destination. Though the country currently does not have anything close to the casinos you will find in places like Las Vegas and Macau, the infrastructure and potential are most definitely there. The only piece that has been missing has been legislation that will make casino gambling legal. A week ago the piece of legislation we are talking about passed the Japanese parliament’s Lower House, and today we received word that it similarly passed through a panel from the Upper House.
All of this is despite plenty of contention from opposition parties and even from within Prime Minister Abe’s own party, of which mostly supported the idea of legalizing casino gambling.
A Race Against the Clock
Because the current parliamentary session in Japan is so close to coming to a conclusion, last week’s news with regard to the pro-casino legislation passing the Lower House was met with plenty of skepticism. The reason for this being that so many people believed it would reach the Upper House and ultimately lose momentum, and thus not make it through before parliament adjourned.
Another reason so many people were under the belief that the bill would not pass was due to persistent questions regarding how the country would deal with things like gambling addiction, which become increasingly prevalent as gambling options become available. Despite all of the legitimate concerns, the Upper House panel approved the bill. Tomorrow, the entire Upper House chamber will officially vote on the bill. While this may sound like legalized gambling is still very much up in the air, the fact of the matter is that Japanese political experts believe that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has garnered enough support that it will pass without much issue.
Naturally, this is something that we will be keeping a close eye on throughout the remainder of the week.
A Bill for Economic Progress
The idea for legalized casino-style gambling in Japan was really primarily the brain child of Prime Minister Abe. His hope was that largescale resort casinos—of which the bill, if passed, would allow to exist—would boost the Japanese economy in more way than one. In addition to revenues for the government directly related to gambling activities, Abe also believes that the existence of such largescale resorts and all that comes with it will drastically boost tourism.
Despite Japan not being the largest country in the world, there are plenty of places that could host a resort casino. From the suburbs of Tokyo to the outlying islands (which are already a huge tourist draw), there are so many opportunities to rake in much-needed cash for the government. For those unaware, Japan has been lagging behind economically for the past few years, so any sort of boost is not only welcomed, but also badly needed.
Despite this seeming like a net positive for the country as a whole, national polls show that about 40% of respondents oppose the idea of legalized casino gambling. Only a shade more than 10% support the idea and the rest of the respondents remain undecided on the matter. People like Masaaki Machida, who represents a gambling addiction support group, think that, “Costs for treating, imprisoning, or hospitalizing (addicts) would be a spiritual, economic and social loss for Japan.”
This is not a new debate in Japan and, regardless of whether the bill passes once and for all in the Upper House, is not one that will go away anytime soon. We will continue to keep a close eye on this situation as it develops, however we are likely to receive final word sometime early tomorrow on whether Japan has casino gambling in its immediate future or not.