Casino gam­bling cleared at ‘in­te­grated re­sorts’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Tokyo

Ja­pan’s par­lia­ment on Thursday ap­proved a law on “in­te­grated re­sorts” that is the first ma­jor hur­dle in al­low­ing casi­nos to set up shop in the wealthy na­tion.

Sup­port­ers of the casino legislation say it would en­hance Ja­pan’s al­lure as a tourism destination and draw in wealth­ier trav­el­ers. Big play­ers in the in­dus­try wel­comed the news, with Wynn Re­sorts say­ing it was “ex­tremely pleased” by its pas­sage.

Op­po­nents ob­ject to an ex­pan­sion of le­gal­ized gam­bling, say­ing it will fuel or­ga­nized crime and en­cour­age gam­bling ad­dic­tion. Sur­veys have shown a ma­jor­ity of Ja­panese op­pose the plan.

Casi­nos are un­likely to start op­er­at­ing in Ja­pan un­til 2021 or beyond, af­ter the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The new legislation would au­tho­rize the draft­ing of reg­u­la­tions for de­tails such as the num­ber and lo­ca­tion of casi­nos, en­try re­stric­tions for Ja­panese and tax rates, which are ex­pected to take up to a year to gain ap­proval.

The ap­proval of the fi­nal ver­sion of the legislation came in the early hours of Thursday, af­ter a failed at­tempt by op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers to pass a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion against its top sup­porter, Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe.

Abe has sought pas­sage of the long-de­layed legislation for years, over the ob­jec­tions of many in his own rul­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party.

Casino op­er­a­tors view Ja­pan as a lu­cra­tive “fi­nal fron­tier”. In a re­port this month, an­a­lysts at in­vest­ment bank CLSA es­ti­mated the po­ten­tial mar­ket at $30 bil­lion a year in gross rev­enue.

The move could make it the world’s sec­ond largest gam­bling mar­ket be­hind Ma­cao, an­a­lysts said.

“The rea­son why ev­ery­one’s spend­ing the time on this is that the po­ten­tial is ab­so­lutely enor­mous,” said James Mur­ren, chair­man of Las Ve­gas-based MGM Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional.

Pub­lic op­po­si­tion to the casi­nos is mainly based on con­cerns over gam­bling ad­dic­tion. In a 2014 study, re­searchers with Ja­pan’s health min­istry found that nearly 5 mil­lion peo­ple, or 5 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion, were thought to be ad­dicted to gam­bling. That’s far higher than the 1 per­cent rate found in many other coun­tries.

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A dealer demon­strates how to play black­jack at a leisure ex­hi­bi­tion in Tokyo.

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