The National Diet of Japan, the country’s bicameral legislature, came to a massive decision this week that’s been met with plenty of support and opposition.
Essentially, the country has decided to legalize casino-style gambling in an attempt to draw in more foreign visitors and help bolster Japan’s tourism industry.
The country already allows various forms of gambling including “pachinko” pinball halls and betting on sports such as horse racing, auto racing, bicycle racing and boat racing.
The bill adds to existing legislation from 2016 and expands the allowance of casinos to “integrated resorts” including hotels, conference rooms and malls by the mid 2020’s.
The cities of Nagasaki, Osaka Wakayama and Hokkaido all are interested in casinos as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is hoping to spread tourism to regions oustide Tokyo.
The legislation allows for the construction of three such “integrated resorts” which will, according to the Daiwa institute of Research, create an influx of five trillion yen when they open and then 2 trillion yen annually.
A number of casino moguls and CEO’s have expressed great interest in Japan’s opening market. Melco CEO Lawrence Ho, for example, believes Japan is “the greatest opportunity in our lifetime”, while MGM CEO James Murren said in April that the group would “ pursue the few high-growth opportunities that may exist, and of course, Japan being top of the list.”
Las Vegas Sand’s brass is reportedly “very enthused” about Japan opening its doors to casinos and even Wynn Resorts is “very excited” as its been trying to lock down a Japanese casino license for some time. Wynn will be “spending more time and more resources there in the future.”
Stipulations within the law account for the concerns of opposition regarding Japan’s trend for risky gambling behavior amid its population. Several harsh conditions are imposed on Japanese citizens that don’t apply to tourists lending to the characterization of the law as based on improving tourism figures.
Japanese residents must pay a fee of 6,000 yen (or $53.4) to enter the casino, while foreign tourists will be allowed to visit free of charge. Also through the use of their numbered national identity cards, they will only be allowed a limited number of visits to the casinos. They will be allowed entry no more that three days a week and 10 days per month as the government attempts to keep addiction in check.
The government also intends to limit the space a casino can operate within to less that 3 percent of the total floor space of a resort while spaces including aisles and eating locations will not be included in that figure. Customers must also be at least above or at the age of 20 and not be affiliated with gangs to enter the casino.
Opposition to the law was stiff as Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano filibustered for 2 hours and 43 minutes, representing the longest such filibuster since 1972.
“Some say casinos would create more employment, but this will be built upon someone else’s loss from gambling,” Edano said in mid-June. “It is impossible to grow the economy through casinos.”
As biased as that opinion may be, the opposition eventually was made to rest its case as the bill was passed into law opening an exciting future for gambling in Japan and creating hopefully more competition amongst Eastern countries.