Approval for Integrated Resort Falls – Over 50% Ask for Freeze

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In a phone study conducted by Asahi Shimbun, 41% of all respondents expressed disproval of integrated casino projects and 50% of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s supporters said they favored a freeze on the project.

Japan’s Integrated Resorts Don’t Take Much of a Hit in Public Perception

Japan has never been hot on the idea of introducing integrated resorts in the country. However, following Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s support for regulating the industry in 2016, everything has been set in motion.

Things have been moving according to plan until December, 2019, when a number of high-level officials were implicating in a corruption scandal for allegedly accepting kickbacks from 500.com to help the Chinese gaming company establish an integrated resort in Hokkaido, a region that has now dropped out of the IR race, citing environmental and budget issues.

A recent Asahi Shimbun survey revealed a little more about the public perception of the project following the scandal that implicated several officials. Approval rating between January 25-26 stood at 20% in favor of the project.

However, disproval rating was reported at 41% – slightly better than December – reflecting societal indignation at the prospect of welcoming casino projects in the country in the wake of the scandal. However, Japan’s government has done well to protect the locals by focusing and advertising to overseas high rollers instead of targeting local gamers.

Integrated Resorts on the Daily Agenda After Akimoto’s Arrest

Admittedly, the arrest of now former Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto in December threw a big spanner in the works. Mr. Akimoto stepped up voluntarily and media has reported that he has admitted guilt in the situation.

He received millions of yen in kickbacks from 500.com, which have secured multiple benefits for him and his family, including a trip to Macau, China and Hokkaido. In the fallout of the scandal, the Prime Minister has dismissed the need to conduct a full-scale investigation into the matter.

Earlier this month, opposition lawmakers submitted a piece to stop the IR projects from happening, but not much progress is expected on this front with overseas brands already having invested a pretty penny in Japan.

Las Vegas and Asian giants have vowed at least $10-$12 billion in net investment to help an integrated resort project happen by 2024.

Don’t Ignore the Public

However, if there is one thing that the Asahi Shimbun revealed that is the fact that the public remains divided on the issue – and mostly espousing a negative view of the project. For example, even amongst Shinzo Abe’s supporters, some 50% responded that they would be inclined to put the project on hold.

The numbers of people backing IRs outright was only 36% – still enough for Mr. Abe to see the project through. More importantly, the LDP has a ruling majority, which allows it to be flexible on sensitive issues and push through difficult pieces of legislation.

Lawmakers are convinced that stopping the casino projects now would be a mistake.

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