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Lawmakers reopen casino legalization debate

Japanese lawmakers have reopened the debate on a bill to legalize casinos on Wednesday, with key LDP executives saying the party will try to pass the legislation by December 14, local media reports.

According to Japan Times, Liberal Democratic Party Diet affairs chief Wataru Takeshita on Wednesday reportedly told junior coalition partner Komeito that the LDP wants to have the bill pass through the committee on Friday, and to be voted on during a plenary session of the chamber on Dec. 6.

It is known that the bill requires the support of the Buddhist-backed coalition partner.

While Wednesday’s deliberations saw only minimal opposition from Komeito lawmakers, the party said it has yet to make a decision on whether to support the bill, reports the Japan Times.

There have been mixed views on whether the bill will pass by December 14th. 

An industry source speaking to AGB, says it is believed that the bill will pass through the House of Representatives on the 6th, but stop at the House of Councillors as it won't likely pass before the close of the Diet session on the 14th. Should LDP push through the bill, it "would directly defy the main opposition party, the majority of the public, and perhaps even their coalition partner Komeito," the source said. 

"Most analysis assumes the Abe govt isn't going to force this through," the source added.  However, it could also be argued that with its 61 percent public approval rating the Abe govt can "afford to take a hit or two if they really think it's worth it."

One the other hand, analysts from OCBC Investment Research say there is a high chance of the LDP forcing passage of the bill.

"We believe that the LDP – which previously made serious efforts to gain the understanding of the Democratic Party (DP) and other opposition parties – has taken an about-turn in seeking support from the opposition. As such, we note that there is a significant chance of the LDP forcing the passage of the bill," the analysts said, quoted by Singapore Business.

In this event, the research house said there would be a more substantial probability of Genting Singapore to obtain a casino license in the future.

Genting Singapore has been eyeing opportunity in Japan since it entered an agreement to dispose of its 100 percent interest in its Jeju business in early November.

Other operators eyeing a potential license in Japan include Hard Rock Cafe International, MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands and Melco Crown Entertainment.

“Everybody is looking at Japan,” said Melco Crown CEO Lawrence Ho in an interview on Tuesday with Bloomberg. “The Japan legislation seems like it’s finally going forward. I personally have been lobbying it for many, many years. We would be extremely interested and will definitely participate in it, if we are lucky to.” 

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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