Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition on Friday pushed through a Lower House panel a contentious bill that specifies rules about the planned structure of integrated resorts (IRs), which will incorporate casino facilities, further intensifying political tensions with the opposition.

Friday's passage of the bill represented the first legislative step toward the ruling bloc's stated goal of enacting the bill by the end of this ongoing Diet session, which is slated to wrap up next week. As the panel called for the vote, a large group of opposition lawmakers, who do not support the legislation, rushed to gather around committee chairman Daishiro Yamagiwa in a popular gesture of protest, attempting unsuccessfully to sabotage the bill's passage.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to secure formal Lower House approval of the bill early next week and swiftly send it to the Upper House, according to Wataru Takeshita, general council chairman of the party, who spoke at a news conference Friday. Given the tight schedule, however, speculation is rife that the LDP-Komeito coalition will resort to extending the designated parliamentary period by a few weeks to guarantee the law's enactment. The Abe administration characterizes IRs, which will feature not only casinos but also facilities such as shopping malls, theaters and hotels, as a key pillar of its drive to boost tourism and stimulate growth.