A small political party in Japan’s parliament is likely to introduce a bill to legalise casinos on Friday, in what has come as a surprise for many politicians in the country.
The often controversial Japan Restoration Party (JRP) is set to introduce a bill on the issue, which comes after lobbyists and politicians from a number of Japanese political parties were jointly working to create and introduce a similar bill. Members of the JRP also worked in the lobbying of the cross-party bill, which is set to be introduced after elections in Japan later this year.
There has been a growing push in recent years to legalise and regulate casinos and gaming in Japan, which is the only developed country in the world which does not have casinos. It follows a gaming boom in Asia and around the world over the last decade that has helped grow the economy of places such as Macau.
It has also helped the economy of fellow Asian powerhouse Singapore, with its two casinos achieving a combined revenue of about $5.3 billion in the last year. Poker has been one of the games to have grown on the continent, with recent poker events such as the Macau Poker Cup and the Asian Poker Tour attracting large numbers of professional poker players from around the world.
Pro-gaming lobbyists in Japan believe that the country could similarly benefit economically from casino and gaming regulation, and they may have a point. Japan, despite its two-decade long economic troubles, is still a relatively wealthy nation that is close to the ever-growing economy of China. This has led to some analysts predicting a Japanese gaming market would be the second largest in the world, being surpassed only by Macau.
Steps to legalise and regulate a market in Japan may be complicated by news of a second bill, especially one introduced by a smaller political party. While reasons and motivations for the bill are currently unclear, it may be for reasons totally unrelated to poker and gaming in general.
The JRP has been known as a party that often has views outside of the political mainstream. It is co-led by Toru Hashimoto, who is currently the mayor of Japan’s second largest city, Osaka. A supporter of casino and gaming legalisation, Hashimoto is a firebrand and divisive figure in Japan and has gained headlines for highly controversial statements on non-gaming issues.
The history of Hashimoto and his party helps lead to the possibility that the JRP’s introduction of another bill would be a way for them to gain further attention in the country. It could also lead to the possibility of them presenting themselves as a party who “get the job done” by introducing a bill before the major political parties.
If a JRP bill does indeed gets introduced, the best likely scenario for pro-gaming figures is that it does not complicate the bipartisan efforts to legalise casinos and gaming as this may destroy possibilities for gaming regulation.