For some people, December 12th of 2016 is going to go down as a highly momentous date for the country of Japan, and Asia in general. The reason for this is thanks to the passing of a highly contentious piece of legislation that has paved the way for Japan to eventually host casino-style gambling. For those who are unaware, gambling like that which you will find at Las Vegas casinos has always been illegal in Japan, but that is slowly but surely changing.
We have been following this story for the past week or more since this bill passed through Japan’s Lower Parliamentary House. Despite that success, there were still plenty of residual doubts with regard to the possibility that the bill would make it past an Upper House panel and subsequently the Upper House at large. Though the odds were not necessarily in favor of the bill passing, that is exactly what happened in Japan today.
For those who have been following this story, you are fully aware of the fact that the passing of this bill does not mean that construction on casino resorts is going to start next week, or even next month. In fact, the bill merely allows for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to draft up the framework regarding how casinos would exist within Japanese society. So, in addition to laying out the number of casino licenses the government would authorize, Abe and his team will need to develop plans for combating gambling addiction as well as plans for how casinos are going to refuse service to known gambling addicts (a practice that is mostly unheard of).
If an approved framework is drafted within the next year or so, optimistic expectations are that Japan’s first casino resorts will open their doors in 2020. If all goes as planned, there will be resort casinos to accommodate and host the millions of tourists expected to descend upon Japan for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be hosted in Tokyo.
Casino giants like MGM and Wynn have long been attempting to build casinos in Tokyo and other parts of the country, so the passing of this piece of legislation is a huge deal for them.
Michael Weaver, Senior VP of marketing for Wynn, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying, “We have been very active in Japan, meeting with key leaders in business and the government to understand the local needs and desires for integrated resorts.”
Despite the casino-industry giants trying for years, the idea of casino resorts in Tokyo and other Japanese cities has not really caught on due to the fact that the Japanese, as a society, are not so keen on gambling. Polls released even before this bill passed showed that a majority of Japanese citizens did not really care for casino gambling. Shinzo Abe, however, took a brave step in suggesting that perhaps the addition of casinos could help boost the Japanese tourist economy. It is no secret that the Japanese economy has been struggling for some time now, so it seems as though push has finally come to shove.
The real problem in the eyes of casino opponents has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with society in general. While there are very few people who can argue that Japanese casinos would not help improve the country’s economic standing, there are plenty of arguments that say increased access to casinos is a one-way ticket to increased gambling addiction. Because of this, the framework that still needs to be drafted will need to have heavy emphasis on tackling and preventing addiction. Without this emphasis, there is very little chance that any casinos will be hosted by the island nation.