03:56 GMT23 October 2020
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    A bill lifting a ban on gambling casinos passed both houses of the Japanese Parliament Thursday, opening up the country to billions in investment, and providing good news for international gaming corporations hungry to cash in on Tokyo’s tourism dollar.

    Companies including MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts have been eyeing Japan to build so-called integrated resorts, the particulars of which will be detailed in a separate implementation bill. The resorts could potentially generate some $30 billion annually. Spread throughout the small country, the cities of Osaka and Yokohama top most lists for the first resorts to be built. 

    MGM currently has a development team in Tokyo, stating that they are "well-prepared" to begin work in Japan.

    In a statement, Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn gushed that the idea of the company being able to construct gambling resorts in Japan is "thoroughly delicious."

    The bill was first submitted to Diet in 2013, before being abandoned. It was reopened in late November 2016, following considerable amendments. The Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party, Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Party unsuccessfully attempted to defeat the bill by submitting a joint no-confidence motion against Chuichi Date, chairman of the Upper House, but the vote was vetoed on Wednesday.

    Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen said that the passing of the bill to legalize gambling in the country, "is a landmark occasion and should be a shot in the arm as it relates to investor sentiment in all gaming names that could be players in Japan." 

    Members of the Buddhist-based Komeito Party are less than enthused about the legislation, fearing that easy access to gambling through the presence of ubiquitous casinos in the country may signal an uptick in money laundering and gambling addiction.

    "If we are going to have casinos in Japan, we will establish the best regulations in the world, along with the personnel and systems to enforce them. It’s important that we create facilities where guests have a safe and pleasant experience," according to Satoshi Sakamoto, chosen by Konami Holdings to lead a new company specifically to invest in Japanese casinos, after the legislation is finalized.

    A recent survey indicates that the legislation has not found broad support among Japanese citizens. This week public broadcaster NHK found that 44 percent of respondents opposed the lifting of the gambling ban, while just 12 percent of respondents favored it. 

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been an advocate of lifting the gambling ban, claiming that the presence of wealthy tourists who hail from parts of Asia where gambling remains illegal will stimulate the Japanese economy.

    Abe defended the pro-gambling legislation against Democratic Party leader Renho, who said during a debate, “What is really problematic about the casino bill is that such an institution basically thrives on bets lost by gamblers, who will then get addicted to the thrill to the point where they will resort to borrowing money…How could this possibly be a growth industry? I think it will debase Japan’s national dignity,” cited by Japan Times.

    Abe argued that gambling casinos will constitute only 3 percent of resort floor space, which, he said, could also include non-gambling facilities such as shopping malls, aquariums, restaurants or theme parks. “It’s not like the entire town will be overrun by casinos,” he asserted, adding, "Needless to say, these facilities will invite investment, which will go a long way toward creating jobs."


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