National / Politics

LDP and Komeito at odds over casino resort rules, dashing deadline hopes

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, on Friday remained at odds as they sought to coordinate key details on the planned establishment of so-called integrated resorts featuring casinos.

Efforts have been underway within the ruling coalition to find common ground on an envisaged bill specifying rules for the resorts which, including casinos, will encompass hotels, conference rooms, theaters and event facilities.

Reports say the government had wanted to submit the bill to the ongoing Diet session by the end of this month, but the ruling parties’ continued failure to reconcile over key details has all but dashed any hopes of the deadline being met.

Cabinet approval of the bill by the end of this month appears “impossible,” Takeshi Iwaya, an LDP lawmaker who heads a party panel tasked with mapping out IR details, said Friday.

While the LDP wants to introduce the entertainment facilities to a greater population and at a lower cost in hopes of maximizing tourism potential, Komeito has espoused more stringent measures to curb gambling addiction.

On Friday, as lawmakers from the two parties met for the second time to discuss details, their differences resurfaced. They differed, for example, on how many established IRs should be allowed nationwide. Komeito is of the opinion that “two or three” is appropriate, while the LDP argues “at least four or five” will be necessary to revitalize regional economies.

Also notable was Komeito maintaining that admission fees should be raised to as much as ¥8,000 from a government-proposed ¥2,000, citing the similar amount charged by casinos in Singapore. The LDP, meanwhile, agreed that the fee should be higher than ¥2,000, but at the same time cautioned it shouldn’t place an “excessive burden” on customers.

Although Komeito backed a government proposal saying that residents, both Japanese and foreign, should be allowed to enter casinos a maximum of three times a week and 10 times a month, the LDP’s Iwaya said imposing a cap both on a weekly and monthly basis is “too stringent.”

“The 10-times-a-month cap alone makes our regulation one of the world’s strictest,” Iwaya said.

Another point of debate had to do with the ways in which potential customers will need to identify themselves upon entry. Komeito insisted on the strict use of My Number identification cards, but the LDP said other forms of ID, such as driver’s licenses and passports, should be utilized, citing the My Number cards’ tepid penetration rate of around 10 percent among the public. The government started issuing the cards to residents in January 2016 upon request.

Despite what appears to be a stark difference in opinions, Iwaya expressed optimism that there is “plenty of room” for the ruling coalition to reach common ground going forward.

In another development, Kyodo News reported Thursday that the central government plans to require operators of casinos to report on customers who exchanged chips for cash worth ¥1 million or more as part of measures to prevent money laundering.

The government reportedly wants to address concerns that the casinos may be used for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing, obliging casino operators to record the name, address and birth date of any customer who buys or cashes in chips worth ¥1 million or more, and the date and times the transactions took place. The information will be required to be reported to a casino management committee to be established by the government.