Casino project for earthquake-hit Sendai discussed by Japanese MPsFriday, 01 July 2011
A casino project to help economic regeneration in the tsunami-ravaged area of Sendai in northeastern Japan was openly discussed on 21st June in a meeting in Tokyo attended by members of the Japanese parliament—the Diet.
The casino scheme may involve creating a special zone in the Sendai area where casino gaming will be exempted from the provisions of Japan’s Criminal Code. That code normally holds that gambling—aside from on the outcome of certain designated sports including horse racing, cycling and power boat-racing held inside Japan and supervised by relevant government ministries—is illegal.
Tokyo-based gaming consultancy Gaming Capital Management (GCM) had an observer at the meeting of the Integrated Resort and Casino Diet Member Association. It was the first session of the cross-party, 135-member Association since the major earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on 11th March.
Mitsuru Sakurai—a Democratic Party of Japan member in the lower House of Representatives—comes from the earthquake damaged area. GCM-NEWS said Mr Sakurai told the meeting: “We feel that great progress has been made from the viewpoint of the earthquake affected district. We could not make the connection with a casino project just after the earthquake.
“But now I could state that a casino would play an important role for the realization of recovery, although currently we could not receive international flights at Sendai Airport,” he added.
The Association’s chairman, Issei Koga, also of the Democratic Party of Japan, mentioned in his opening speech to the meeting an article in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper highlighting a possible casino project in the Sendai area, said GCM-NEWS.
Mr Koga stated such a project is worth considering from the viewpoint of generating funds for the recovery of the Tohoku district. He stressed, however, that it has not yet been officially proposed.
The 21st June meeting of the Association was held to discuss further the basic principles of the proposed Casino Bill. That discussion was based upon Mr Koga’s draft version of the bill. It took into account opinions from relevant government offices gathered since the previous meeting of the Association prior to the earthquake disaster.
Association vice chairman Takeshi Iwaya of the Liberal Democratic Party said the aim of the consultations was to improve the proposed casino legislation. But he added that it was part of an even more ambitious programme of administrative reform for the whole of Japan. This reform would cover legal, governmental and social regulations. This refers to the fact that under the traditional Japanese system of public policy formation known as gyousei shido (administrative guidance), there is often ambiguity on rules and regulations. For example, under gyousei shido, the massively popular arcade game pachinko is classified as a ‘speculative pastime’, and not gambling, even though the rest of the world would probably classify it as a form of gambling. For casinos to be legalised in Japan, clear statutes—rather than mere guidance—will be necessary, suggest many industry experts. That reform process required to legalise gambling—moving from an opaque to a more transparent system—may also be applied to other aspects of Japanese life.
Toru Mihara, Professor at Osaka University of Commerce Institute for Amusement Industry Studies, told the Association meeting the general principle of administrative reform in Japan had already received support from many Diet members and public officials. He added the specific reform of amending the Criminal Code to legalise gambling had also received widespread support.
GCM-NEWS said further progress has been made since the last meeting of the Association in dealing with issues such as casino accounting, creation of a regulatory body, regulation and authorisation of casino workers and terms and restrictions for public entry to casinos.
Ex-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama—the first-ever premier from the modern Democratic Party of Japan—also participated at the meeting.
Mr Hatoyama became premier in September 2009 on a wave of popular enthusiasm for reform but resigned after just nine months in June 2010, citing he had broken a campaign promise to close an American military base on the island of Okinawa.
He told the Integrated Resort and Casino Diet Member Association: “We have come to a certain substantial point in terms of the realisation of this Casino Bill. We request all of you to further support the IR and Casino Diet Member Association, although there are certain issues to be overcome like coexistence with the horse racing industry.”
Representative Sakihito Ozawa of the Democratic Party of Japan said in a closing speech at the meeting: “I do think that our responsibility is to have the Bill completed, although there are still many relevant and important issues to be solved such as the [post-earthquake infrastructure] recovery plan and the illegality waiver [in terms of creating a special ‘casino zone’],” reported GCM-NEWS.