Abe to visit Singapore casino to gauge economic benefits

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit a casino and resort complex in Singapore later this month to assess the facility’s economic benefits and effect on society, according to a government source.

Abe’s trip will come at a time when domestic legislation to legalize casino gambling has been introduced in the Diet, with the aim of helping to boost the economy and tourism.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Abe, and two small opposition parties, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party), jointly submitted during an extraordinary Diet session a bill to introduce a casino complex last December.

The parties are pushing for passage of the legislation in next year’s ordinary Diet session. The legislation was drafted by a nonpartisan federation of lawmakers to legalize casinos and with Abe is its top adviser.

In 2005, Singapore announced it will scrap its long-standing ban on casino gambling in the hope of drawing more tourists amid intense economic competition in the region.

U.S. and Malaysian companies operate two casino and resort complexes in the city-state. Since Singapore opened its casino business in 2010, jobs for about 70,000 people have been generated, according to the companies.

Abe said in a Diet session in February that casinos can contribute to industrial development and help to revitalize the economy, but noted there could be some negative effects on society as well.

He said he hopes the bill will deepen the debate on the benefits and issues that need to be addressed. Tokyo and Osaka are among local governments hoping to host casinos.

Abe will be in Singapore to deliver a keynote speech on May 30 at the annual Asia Security Summit, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.