Panel to tour Japan to gain public support for casino bill

A government panel responsible for overseeing Japan’s gambling regulatory process will travel to multiple locations around the country to explain the new integrated resort policy in a bid to gain public support.

When the new law was passed by Japanese parliament at the end of 2016 to introduce casino gambling to Japan for the first time, public support was low, with 44 per cent of Japanese citizens opposed to legalising casinos.

The government has been considering ways to best regulate the casino market since, with the new integrated resorts bill expected to be finalised by the end of 2017.

On Monday, a special government committee put forward its final recommendations for how the casino industry should be regulated. The recommendations included charging an admission fee to Japanese citizens, and putting a cap on the number of times Japanese locals could visit the casinos each month.

The panel’s recommendations aim to make the casinos attractive to tourists while protecting Japanese citizens from the potential harm caused by gambling.

The panel will travel to Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sendai, Sapporo, Nagoya, Toyama, and Takamatsu during the final two weeks of August to present the integrated resorts plan to members of the public. The panel will listen to community concerns and answer questions in a bid to quash concerns about the issues casino gambling could have on Japanese locals.

According to an insider, the tour aims to listen to public views while promoting the introduction of integrated resorts with caution.

Although no plans have been finalised, it is speculated that two integrated resort licenses will be issued in Japan. While Wakayama was a front runner for one of the licenses, its exclusion from the panel’s tour circuit suggests the port city may be off the cards. Osaka and Tokyo now lead the rumour mill as the cities to host Japan’s first two casinos.

Several foreign casino operators have shown interest in the Japanese market, including Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts, Melco Entertainment and Galaxy Entertainment. Industry analysts have warned that if the Japanese parliament is too strict with its regulations, foreign developers could lose interest before the industry has been given a chance.

If the integrated resort bill is finalised by the end of the year as scheduled, Japan’s first casino is expected to open its door around 2023.

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