oru Mihara, a gaming expert at the Osaka University of Commerce involved in the group’s efforts, told GamblingCompliance that the draft was “still a skeleton one” released to kick-start debate. “We still anticipate months of discussion with stakeholders and government officials which commence from September onward,” Mihara said.
The aim after that, he said, was for the working group to have draft legislation ready for the next National Diet session due to start in February 2011. Under the proposals two sites would initially be licensed by the government and, depending on their success, a maximum of eight other sites will be considered.
The draft bill also suggested a two-phase selection process, first mooted in 2007, in which the state will set the basic selection procedure for casino sites and local governments will choose the operators. But Ikhee Han, an analyst at Korean-based Hyundai Securities, said in a research note that legal roadblocks and opposition from the pachinko industry meant the proposed legislation was highly unlikely to succeed.
Han also played down the rumours of a Japanese casino liberalisation after share prices at Korean casino operators Paradise and Kangwon Land tumbled last week. “We believe casino introduction in Japan is almost impossible, and even if it becomes possible, it will be a very long time from now,” Han said.
Casinos are strictly prohibited in Japan, and Han argued it would take “drastic legislative measures” to legalise them, whether it was through revisions or enacting a special law.
“Without any circumstantial factors that may cause a change of attitude on the part of the pachinko industry, the proposed draft to introduce casinos in Japan is also highly likely to founder,” he added.
Han suggested that the current Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government lacked the political will to push through the legislation in the face of pachinko opposition.
Kazuaki Sasaki, an academic at Nihon University in Tokyo, suggested that pachinko opposition was not as strong as before, though, and said that the political uncertainty surrounding the government was more of a problem. He told GamblingCompliance that, although casinos would probably be legalised in the near future, it was impossible it would happen this year because of the “very unstable” political situation.
Since the DPJ was elected last year, after nearly 50 years out of power, it has been beset with problems. The party lost majority control of parliament’s upper house in last month’s elections, and Naoto Kan, who took over as Prime Minister in June, faces a re-election contest for the party leadership on September 14.
Despite the upper house results, Bill Lerner at Union Gaming said in a research note last month that a casino measure continued to make progress. “As we believe there is bipartisan support in parliament for gaming expansion, it does not appear that the DPJ would need to control both the upper and lower houses of parliament for gaming expansion to become a reality. Then, Lerner concluded: “Further we think that public consensus already in favour of casinos could strengthen if the populous believes gaming expansion is a viable alternative to a consumption tax.”