Nippon Ishin bills seek casinos, dual-duty nod for Upper House ranks

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) is planning two bills: one that would legalize casinos and one that would let local government heads concurrently serve in the Upper House.

The party intends to submit the bills to the Diet during the current session, which ends June 26.

The casino bill would bring Asian and American-style gambling resorts to Japan, while the other proposed legislation would pave the way for Nippon Ishin co-leader Toru Hashimoto to retain his position as Osaka mayor if he were to be elected to the Diet.

Casinos would be part of integrated resort areas, special amusement zones where gambling would be allowed. Resort areas would include hotels, restaurants, shops and convention centers as well as more family-oriented amusements, all in an effort to attract not only gamblers but also international conventions.

Among the possible first locations for casino resorts that have been proposed by groups and individuals, including Nippon Ishin co-leader Shintaro Ishihara, are Tokyo’s Odaiba district, Kansai International Airport and Osaka’s Maishima district.

“Integrated resorts, with casinos, will help revive local economies. Gambling has a negative image, but resorts are not just about gambling, but a wide variety of amusements,” Hashimoto said in April when Nippon Ishin was discussing the legislation.

More than 100 Diet members from the ruling and opposition camps support gambling resorts as a way to revive local-level tax bases and create employment. Influential corporate lobby groups such as Keidanren have indicated their support for such resorts, although some regional business groups, like the Osaka Chamber of Commerce, have expressed caution, citing concerns about gambling addiction and increased crime.

The other bill would allow a governor or mayor to simultaneously serve in the Upper House.

Under current law, Hashimoto would have to resign as mayor if he wants to run in the July Upper House election, a move many of his Osaka supporters oppose as they fear voters would be angry at him for not finishing out his term, which ends in 2015.

For such a bill to become law, Nippon Ishin needs the support of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner New Komeito. Both parties have indicated that, logistically, it’s impossible for one person to serve in both positions.

Hashimoto has so far repeatedly said he will not run in the Upper House election.