Momentum to permit casinos rising

JIJI

Momentum is gathering pace for the lifting of a ban on casinos, prompting local governments and private businesses to step up preparations to host them.

While Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore are widely known for huge casinos, or facilities that house and accommodate roulette and other gambling, Japan bans them in line with its Penal Code’s prohibition on gambling.

Last December, however, the Liberal Democratic Party joined Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party) to submit a bill to the Diet to remove the ban in order to promote tourism in the country.

Calls for permitting casinos have been growing especially since the LDP’s return to power and the selection of Tokyo as the venue of the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“With the (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe administration now powerful (in terms of public support), we would like the Diet to pass the bill,” said Hiroyuki Hosoda, a veteran LDP lawmaker who heads a suprapartisan group of legislators seeking to legalize casinos.

The bill envisages private companies managing casinos combined with conference halls and lodging facilities. It calls for creating an administration committee affiliated with the Cabinet Office to regulate casino operators.

If the bill clears the Diet and takes effect, the government will be required to adopt a new law within a year to promote the establishment of casinos.

Under the draft of the new law, businesses would be required to obtain licenses to operate casinos, and inspectors would crack down on illegal practices.

Pro-casino lawmakers hope that Diet deliberations on the bill will begin around the Golden Week holidays in late April and early May.

“Initially, casinos should be created in three or so locations and the number should gradually increase if their operations prove successful,” a key member of the group said, expecting early passage of the bill.

Some 10 local governments, including Tokyo, have already begun preparations to host casinos.