Japan Parliament Approves Casino Commission Nominees

Japan’s bicameral parliament, also known as the National Diet, approved unanimously the national government’s nominees to lead the soon-to-be established casino management commission. 

CMC in Charge of Oversight and Prevention

Referred to as the Casino Management Committee (CMC), the five-member casino management board will be in charge of overseeing and regulating the casino industry, which is to enter Japan soon.

The management committee is expected to be established by January 7, 2020 and its two main areas of focus will include monitoring the activities of integrated resorts (IR) operators and dealing with the potential social harms that the long-awaited introduction of casino gambling to Japan would cause.

The head of the oversight body will be Michio Kitamura, who served previously as inspector general of legal compliance at the country’s Defence Ministry. Kitamura, 67, is also former Fukuoka High Prosecutor General.

Five Individuals to be Leading the Committee

The list of nominated individuals also included Hiroyuki Ujikane, former chief of the National Tax Agency’s Nagoya Regional Taxation Bureau; Noriko Endo, professor at the graduate school of Keio University; Michiko Watari, a psychiatrist; and Tateshi Higuchi, the former Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department superintendent general. The nominees were announced in the middle of November and were supported by Japan’s governing coalition, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, as well as by the Japan Restoration Party.

The committee’s five members will serve five-year terms each, according to an ordinance reportedly adopted by the government in October. The committee will act as an independent agency under the Cabinet Office with a 100 people staff.

Determining the Location of IRs

One of the most important tasks in the commission’s list will be to determine the locations of the three planned integrated resorts (IRs), which is the allowed maximum in the first phase of the liberalization. The national government is still expected to publish the official full version of its basic policy on IRs, which is expected to happen by the end of March 2020. The policy is expected to elaborate on the central authorities’ criteria for selecting the places permitted to have a casino resort.

The exact Japanese municipalities that will be allowed to host casino venues are stull unknown, although according to speculations the possible frontrunners are Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka. In Macau, all six gaming operators have shown interest in applying for a Japanese license. However, Osaka is a point of interest for MGM Resorts and Galaxy Entertainment Group only. Macau’s other operators said they preferred to settle in alternative locations across Japan.

Niall Sean Murray, chairman of consulting firm Murray International commented that Japan will make efforts so to protect players from the negative consequences of gambling, which might be brought by integrated resorts.

“They are concerned about ensuring that organized crime, money laundering and other criminal activities don’t happen,” said Murray during a French Macau Chamber of Commerce event.

“[The authorities] are going to safeguard and ensure that they will do everything possible [to make sure] that this is a positive thing for the economy and that it has minimal negative effects,” the expert also said.

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