IAG February 2015 - page 10

Certaincircumstances thatderailed IR legalization last year—during
the regular Diet session, a gaming opponent chaired a crucial
upper house committee, and, during the extraordinary session, two
cabinetministers resigned amid campaign scandals—were unique
events unlikely to be repeated. But other key issues haven’t been
resolved, and IR legislation remains hostage to national politics
and current events.
“The recent election did consolidate some further support for
pro-casino interests in Japan,” contends Global Market Advisors
partner Jonathan Galaviz. But, he adds, “There are certainly more
pressing economic and public policy issues presenting themselves
in Japan than the issueof casinogaming.”
Mr Abe, the leader of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, called the
December election after the country’s economy fell into recession in
the thirdquarter of last year, following a rise in its consumption tax—
the equivalent of other nations’ sales tax or value-added tax—from
5% to 8% in April. Hismajor campaign platform in 2012 had been a
recovery plan known as Abenomics, prescribing the “three arrows” of
monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reform to pull Japan
out of a quarter-century of economic stagnation. The election was
called to refresh Abenomics’ mandate, within which IR legalization
couldprovideaboost to tourismandhelp reorient theeconomy.
However, the recession means more immediate stimulation of
the economy will take precedence during the current Diet session.
“The recession is just one more factor adding to the growing list
of issues that are of greater immediate priority than passing IR
legislation,” SpectrumAsiaCEOPaul Bromberg says.
MrAbehasalsoprioritizednationaldefenseforthe legislativesession
amid simmering disputeswithChina over islands in the seas between
the two countries.MrAbe is considereda keennationalistwhoaims to
upgrade Japan’sarmed forcesandamend itspacifistConstitution.
Despite these competing priorities, gaming observers in Japan feel
the initial legislative step toward casino legalization could happen
this year “The landslide victory of the LDP [inDecember] could allow
the IR Promotion bill to be passed in the [current] parliamentary
session, hopefully in June,” suggests Satoshi Okabe, consulting
director for integrated resorts and tourism at Dentsu Consulting,
Japan’s leading advertising andPR firm.
Local elections due in April complicate legislative timing. LDP’s
coalitionpartner,Komeito, aBuddhist-basedparty thathasexpressed
reservationsaboutcasinos, reportedlywon’tallow internaldiscussion
of legalizationuntilnationwide local electionsconcludeon26thApril.
Apart from many party supporters’ religious objections, Komeito
raisesconcernsover thepotential negative impacts, includingmoney
laundering andproblemgambling.
Nihon University gaming expert Kazuaki Sasaki believes
submissionof the IRbillwill bedelayeduntilMayor June.Hedoesn’t
expect passageuntil theDiet’s extraordinary session late in the year.
Approval would be just the first part of the legislative process,
withan IR-implementationbill to follow. Thefirst billwouldauthorize
the government to create the national legal, taxation and regulatory
framework for integrated resorts,perhaps includingaSingapore-style
entry levy for Japanese citizens and a requirement for IRs to include
at least partial Japaneseownership. The secondbill would enact that
framework, enabling issuanceof IR licensesunderwhatever plan the
government devises, likely with local authorities doing the licensing
and adding their own taxes andperhaps other conditions.
Creating an IR regulatory structure faces many challenges.
“Too many local and regional interests are creating headwinds to
legalization at the national level,”Mr Galaviz points out. “Japanwill
not legalize any form of casino gaming until the local prefectures
agree on a national framework.” The national bureaucracy is also
thought to be reluctant to take on the responsibility of casino
regulation, and theNational Police arewary of the impact on crime.
To overcome these obstacles Mr Abe formed an IR task force
with about two dozen members drawn from relevant government
agencies. IthasbeenworkingsinceSeptember tocraftprovisionsof a
Proponents inJapan still believe IRswill
be legalized in time toopenby the2020
SummerOlympicGames inTokyo.However,
for the international gaming community,
whichhas long seenJapanasAsia’smost
mainlandChina, the feverhasdecidedly
cooled in the faceofJapaneserealities.
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