Japan’s Upper House of Parliament recently passed the Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Counter Measures, which is expected to pave the way for the long-awaited Integrated Resort Implementation Bill (IRIB) to be subsequently passed by lawmakers before the end of July 2018. The prefectures of Osaka, Hokkaido, Wakayama and Nagasaki, could be amongst the first Japanese locations to benefit from the changing laws.
Once the IR Implementation Bill goes through, three integrated resorts at least are set to be approved. Leading the candidature to secure the first licenses to be offered by the Japanese government is Caesars Entertainment, who have already underlined their ‘Vision for Japan’, having directly participated in negotiations with lawmakers and community leaders in the country for over fifteen years, when the legislative discussions first began to gather pace.
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Jan Jones, EVP for public policy and corporate responsibility at Caesars Entertainment, has welcomed the gathering pace of the new legislative framework being established in Japan. “Assuming the legislation passes the upper house, we think the first licenses might be awarded late in 2020, with first resorts opening in 2025,” Jones explained in a TotallyGaming.com interview at the end of June 2018.
It’s certainly been a long road leading up to the first key legislature changes that came in December 2016, which officially made gambling legal in Japan, although when it comes to bricks and mortar casinos, the country’s parliament was still a long way from implementing the legal framework to regulate the industry. Meanwhile, the doors opened for citizens to legally explore their gambling options via the internet for the first time, as operators such as William Hill online casino in Japan offered localized language support to meet the demands of a growing client base.
However, with much still in the air and with many gray areas still to account for with land-based casinos, the importance of establishing the appropriate legal infrastructure has been of paramount importance to the Japanese Parliament. This finally came when the Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Counter Measures was introduced in June 2018, which lays the foundations on which the remaining legislature can be built upon and which also passed comfortably in parliament, with 183 voting in favor and just 46 against.
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The IR Bill is therefore fully expected to pass through parliament with very little opposition, before the final session on July 22 at the National Diet Building in Tokyo. Given the huge success of integrated resorts and casino complexes in other popular Asian destinations, such as Macau, Singapore and the Philippines, there has been a growing appreciation that such resort destinations could bring not only significant overseas investment to the country, but also provide a massive boost to the tourist industry.
Gambling was actually made illegal in 1907 by Japan’s criminal code. However, there have been exclusions in place for state lotteries and scratch cards, along with soccer totes, horse racing, powerboat racing and motorsports. Pachinko parlors were also considered a “game” rather than “gambling” as such, given that the mechanical slots-like game doesn’t pay out cash prizes. Instead, tokens are awarded that can be redeemed for goods or items at stores, which are nominally separate to the parlors. Nevertheless, this new legislature will also potentially change the face of pachinko in Japan and how the parlors can operate in the future.