The Lower House on Tuesday passed a bill that will allow casinos to open in Japan, despite concerns over gambling addiction and casino-related antisocial behavior.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has sought to introduce casinos within “integrated resorts” that include hotels, conference rooms and event facilities, claiming that the new casinos will attract more overseas visitors and spur regional economies.
The ruling bloc, led by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, aims to promptly begin the bill’s deliberations in the Upper House and ensure its enactment by extending the current Diet session beyond Wednesday, the scheduled close of the current 150-day ordinary session.
But opposition parties, including the leading Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is set to step up their efforts to block deliberations on the bill in the House of Councilors.
Last Friday, the bill passed a House of Representatives’ committee with approval from the LDP, its junior coalition partner Komeito and the Osaka-based opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai, as Daishiro Yamagiwa, an LDP member who chairs the panel, railroaded the bill amid protests from opposition lawmakers.
The envisioned legislation would legalize casino gambling, which is currently banned under criminal law.
In 2016 a law took effect aimed at allowing casinos to be opened as part of integrated resorts, but additional legislation on their actual operation is still needed.
Under the bill people living in Japan will be charged a ¥6,000 entrance fee, while foreign visitors will be able to enter free of charge.
The legislation will permit casino facilities in up to three locations in the country, and restrict locals from entering such facilities more than three times per week or 10 times per month.
If the Diet passes the bill, the casinos are likely to be opened in the mid-2020s.
The Lower House also passed an antismoking bill on Tuesday, paving the way for its enactment and implementation before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The bill to revise the Health Promotion Law bans indoor smoking at schools, hospitals and public institutions, with violations resulting in fines. Japan is rated poorly for tobacco control policies by the World Health Organization in comparison to other countries.
But the bill has drawn controversy as the government has largely relaxed requirements for eateries to qualify for exemptions on indoor smoking restrictions, amid opposition from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party — whose members have strong ties to the tobacco and restaurant industries.
Under the bill, smoking is prohibited in principle at eateries, offices and hotels. But such facilities are allowed to set up special rooms for exclusive use by smokers where no food or drink will be served.
Eateries with customer seating areas of up to 100 square meters and capital of up to ¥50 million are exempted from the smoking ban, and are not required to set up separate smoking areas if they display a sign in front of the buildings indicating that they are a smoking space.
The bill also restricts the use of heat-not-burn tobacco products by requiring eateries to set up special smoking rooms if they want to allow their customers to smoke while they dine.
The government and the ruling party have decided to extend the current Diet session through Wednesday to enact the bill in the Upper House, with a view to putting it into force in April 2020.