Japan is currently on the verge of green-lighting the Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill and a number of opposition party members are making last-minute appeals to the House of Representatives to reconsider and prevent the passage of the bill.
Opposition Hold Press Conference
In a press conference this week, five House of Representatives lawmakers that come from five different opposition parties argued that the country is not yet ready to pass the IR Bill and that the government might have been succumbing to foreign pressure to fast-track the bill.
The five lawmakers present in the press conference were: Tetsuya Shiokawa of the Japan Communist Party, Tomoko Abe of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Shuji Inatomi of the Democratic Party For the People, Denny Tamaki of the Liberal Party, and Masaharu Nakagawa of the Group of Independents.
One of their biggest arguments is that the government is clearly acting against what the Japanese people want. According to a recent survey by the Kyodo news agency, only 26 percent of Japanese people are in support of the construction of casinos and a huge 65 percent were outright opposed to the plan.
The opposition lawmakers claimed that a full parliamentary debate on the IR bill is being cut short so that relevant issues are skipped and the bill could be fast-tracked. The allegations also state that Keiichi Ishii, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism was found to not have grasped the full content of the IR Implementation Bill and that it was being compiled by bureaucrats without his direct participation.
Japanese Government Acting On US Pressure
Another big allegation surrounding the fast-tracking of the IR Implementation Bill comes from Japan Communist Party’s Shiokawa, who said that the IR Implementation Bill has started to take the shape of what American businesses want without considering what is beneficial to the Japanese people.
Shiokawa underscores the agreement between LDP and Komeito regarding a key IR policy issue: the restriction of the gaming floor size. Last June, Japan’s Experts’ Committee wanted to impose a strict cap of 15,000 sqm on casino gaming floor size. But when this reached the ears of powerful American casino tycoons who want to become the first companies to build IRs in Japan, they argued that the casino floor limit will also limit the amount of investment the companies would be willing to funnel into development of Japanese IRs.
Shiokawa also cites the disapproval of the Las Vegas Sands founder Sheldon Adelson who was against imposing a cap on casino floor space. Las Vegas Sands Corp is one of the leading casino operators in the world and many expect will be one of the beneficiaries of an IR license in Japan. The Japanese legislator pointed out that when Adelson visited Osaka in 2017, he made it very clear that the gaming floor restriction did not make it very attractive for Las Vegas Sands Corp to pump in billions into developing an IR in Japan.
Are Adelson And Trump Putting Pressure?
Shiokawa believes that these comments and disapproval from American businessmen such as Sheldon Adelson are what pushed Japanese legislators to alter hard gaming floor restrictions.
According to the April 2018 draft of the IR Implementation Bill, the gaming floor area will technically be 3 percent of the total gross floor area of the resort. This restriction was quietly dropped and the latest draft bill now states that the limit of the gaming area will be set by the government—although it was not cleared at what level will it be capped or determined.
This development in the IR Implementation bill was exactly what Shiokawa was referring to. Japanese lawmakers tailor-fitting the IR bill to what the foreign investors are asking for, instead of focusing on what is beneficial to their citizens.
Shiokawa believes that US President Donald Trump may have a hand in these developments and could have raised these issues when he met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during bilateral discussions which took place recently. Shiokawa noted that Adelson was a huge Trump supporter and he could’ve used his influence on the Japanese President to push for changes.
Despite the clamor of the opposing parties, Komeito and LDP are expected to pull out the IR bill debate from the Cabinet Committee and send it to the plenary session of the House of Representatives. They are expecting the bill to be passed by the House of Representatives on June 14, and will then be sent to the House of Councillors for deliberation.