Japanese Opposition Prepares Casino Abolishment Bill

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In light of the recent bribery scandal involving a foreign entity, Japanese lawmakers are planning on introducing a bill that would abolish casinos and bar the progress of integrated resorts.

Opposition to Suggest Abolishing Casinos in Japan

Lawmakers from Japan’s opposition parties are considering a new bill that would aim to abolish the Integrated Resorts (IR) Promotion Act and bar the introduction of casino resorts throughout Japan. This development comes after the news that a member of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party, one Tsukasa Akimoto, has allegedly accepted kickbacks from 500.com Ltd., a Chinese gaming giant seeking to build one of the three integrated resorts in Japan.

Mr. Akimoto, who was arrested in December and has since stepped down from his post as member in Mr. Abe’s party, has denied wrongdoing. However, Japanese authorities have identified five lawmakers and several 500.com employees who are reportedly involved in influence-peddling over the future bidding process.

Mikio Shimoji, Minister of State for Disaster Management, has also been implicated. Unlike Mr. Akimoto, Mr. Shimoji has refused to step down so far, even though he admitted accepting estimated $9,225 from 500.com, money he hadn’t declared.

Casino Abolishing Bill in the Works

The bill that would propose the cancellation of integrated resorts in the country is to be submitted on January 20 during a regular Diet session, sources have reported on Wednesday. The move is in all likelihood going to fail, experts have suggested, as Mr. Abe’s party still controls both houses of the Diet, giving the Liberal Democratic Party a firm bulwark against any attempts to upset the progress made since 2016.

A possible rout of the original bill would also mean millions lost in preliminary investment. In light of the scandal, Japanese’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, made a statement at the beginning of the week, arguing that the government remained committed to following through with its plans to introduce the integrated resorts in the country.

In the meantime, the government has already set up an official casino management commission that will be tasked with overseeing all matters related to the industry, including the integrity of allocating licenses.

To proceed to hosting an Integrated Resort, Japan’s competent authorities will have to first approve bids from local governments. All applicants would need to have signed partnership with oversees brands willing to invest in the development of the regions where integrated resorts would be hosted.

So far, a number of prefectures and cities have confirmed their determination to participate in the bidding process, including Osaka, Yokohama and the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Conversely, some, such as the city of Chiba and Hokkaido have dropped out of the race, citing mostly environmental and disaster-management concerns.

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