• Bloomberg


The government will find it difficult to pass a casino legalization bill in the Diet before its current session closes June 22, ruling coalition lawmaker Masakazu Hamachi said Saturday, raising concern that gambling resorts may have difficulty opening in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Scheduling challenges will make approving the legislation hard, Hamachi, a representative from junior coalition ally New Komeito who sits on the committee set up to consider the bill, said in an interview in Tokyo.

The Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling camp, which has promoted casino resorts as a tourism-boosting complement to the 2020 Summer Games. Casino tycoons from Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. co-Chairmen Lawrence Ho and James Packer have said they’re prepared to spend billions on gambling resorts in Japan.

“I am completely in favor of the bill,” said Hamachi. “But it is difficult to pass because of the order of the deliberation of the bills.”

Casinos could add hotels and provide an economic boost as tourists flock to Tokyo for the Olympics, officials in conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP said after Tokyo won the right to host the event. Abe is looking for ways to broaden an economic recovery that’s stalling, adding pressure to end the ban on casinos in this session of the Diet to make the most of an expected surge in visitors.

The domestic casino market could be worth as much as $40 billion a year as early as 2025, making it Asia’s largest after Macau, according to CLSA Ltd. estimates.

“Time is of the essence,” James Murren, CEO of MGM, said Wednesday. “There seems to be a very strong political will to move this forward and who knows what the environment will be a year or two from now.”

Once the current Diet session ends, lawmakers typically return for an extraordinary session starting in the autumn, which means the casino bill could have an additional chance to pass before the end of the year. Hamachi predicted the bill could be passed this fall.

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