/

LDP abandons trying to legalize casinos during current Diet session

JIJI

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has decided to cease pushing a bill to lift a ban on casinos during the ongoing ordinary Diet session, a party executive said Tuesday.

It has decided to concentrate its efforts on the national security bills currently before lawmakers, which would allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. The security reforms are the top priority of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, and it is uncertain whether the unpopular legislation will be passed before the end of the current session, which has been extended through late September.

The party also took into consideration the cautious attitude toward removing the ban by Komeito, its partner in the ruling coalition.

“The casino bill will be handled at a planned extraordinary Diet session,” the executive said. “For the current session, we have the security bills.”

The current session is set to end on Sept. 27, due to a substantial extension aimed at enacting the security legislation.

The legislation faces strong public opposition, so it is uncertain whether the government-sponsored bills will pass.

The LDP decided to put the casino bill on the back burner as handling it could intensify criticism of the party and possibly have a negative effect on the Diet’s debating of the national security bills.

The security bills cleared the Lower House last month and are now being debated in the Upper House.

Komeito has shown no sign of change in its position on the casino bill. Yoshinori Oguchi, Komeito’s chief of Diet affairs, has said the party does not anticipate Diet deliberations on the casino bill during the current session because insufficient measures are in place yet to deal with gambling addiction.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told a news conference on Tuesday that the party’s stance remains the same, saying that he leaves the handling of the casino issue to the party’s Diet affairs committee.

The LDP executive hopes that the extraordinary session, expected this fall, will deal with the casino bill. However, bills such as an amendment to the labor standards law will take priority during the session.

Another headwind for the casino bill is increasing calls among some LDP lawmakers for putting off Diet debates on the measure until after the next Upper House election in the summer of 2016, as public support for Abe’s Cabinet has fallen.

In April, the LDP and two opposition parties — Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) and the Party for Future Generations — jointly reintroduced the casino bill to the Lower House.

The measure was previously submitted during an extraordinary Diet session in 2013, but was scrapped in December 2014 after Abe called a snap election and dissolved the lower chamber.

In late July, Ishin asked the LDP to ensure prompt debating of the bill by the Diet. The LDP did not give a clear answer, saying that it is taking time to form a consensus within the ruling bloc.