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Lawmakers aim to enact bill to legalize casinos by Dec. 14

by

Staff Writer

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party resumed on Wednesday Lower House committee deliberations on a long-stalled bill to legalize casinos, with key LDP executives saying the party will try to enact the controversial legislation by Dec. 14.

Liberal Democratic Party Diet affairs chief Wataru Takeshita reportedly told junior coalition partner Komeito that the LDP wants to have the bill pass through the committee Friday and voted on during a plenary session of the chamber on Dec. 6.

Many Komeito members had in the past been reluctant to enact the legislation amid public concern over the possibility of increased gambling addiction and crimes traditionally linked to casinos, including money-laundering.

Wednesday’s resumption of deliberations saw only minimal opposition when Komeito lawmakers held a meeting to discuss the issue, according to a lawmaker with the party who attended the session.

Still, given the tight deliberations schedule at the Diet, it remains unclear if the bill will be enacted by the session’s Dec. 14 close.

“We do not plan to scrap the bill for now. So it is only natural for us to try to enact the bill by the end of the session,” LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told a news conference Tuesday.

The Democratic Party, the largest opposition force, boycotted Wednesday’s session of the Lower House Cabinet Committee. The absence, though, failed to stop the LDP from kicking off the committee session on restarting deliberations on the bill.

The legislation was initially submitted to the Diet in 2013 by a bipartisan group of lawmakers headed by LDP Executive Council Chairman Hiroyuki Hosoda.

The lawmakers argue the bill is more about allowing for the building of “integrated resorts,” not just casinos. An IR refers to a complex facility that integrates establishments such as hotels, convention centers, theaters and casinos, according to the lawmakers.

The bill has been widely dubbed the “Casino bill,” but the lawmakers insist it should be called the “IR bill,” an apparent effort to circumnavigate the negative image associated with gambling.

“We are not thinking at all about creating casinos alone. We are thinking of complex entertainment facilities,” argued LDP lawmaker Takeshi Iwaya during Wednesday’s committee session at the Lower House.

During the session, Hosoda cited four factors that would benefit the nation if the bill is passed: a boom in construction, more jobs, a boost in the number of overseas tourists visiting Japan and increased tax revenue for local and the central governments.

“The economic effects will spread to areas even outside those where IRs are located,” Hosoda said.