TOKYO, June 17 Japanese lawmakers said they will
start long-awaited talks on Wednesday on a bill to legalise
casino gambling, kicking off the process to create an industry
that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called a highlight of his
Senior members of the lower house cabinet committee agreed
on Tuesday to include casinos on the agenda for the following
day's debate, several lawmakers said.
The bill's proponents have been keen to begin discussions
before the June 22 end of the regular parliamentary session so
they can carry the talks over into an extraordinary session
later in the year when they hope to have it passed. Debate has
been delayed by other legislation and political wrangling.
The bill sets the basic legal framework for allowing
casinos. If it passes, debate will move to a second bill
concerning concrete regulations, which proponents hope to pass
next year and allow developers to start building resorts in time
for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Abe said in late May that casino resorts, also called
integrated resorts (IR), will be a key feature of his economic
With views among politicians and the public still mixed,
however, a draft of the government's growth strategy obtained by
Reuters on Monday underscored a cautious outlook.
"Integrated resorts are expected to contribute to bolstering
tourism, regional activity and industry, but they also require
consideration of policy measures to prevent crime, maintain
safety, ensure healthy development of youngsters and prevent
addiction," the draft said.
"Therefore, the relevant ministries will continue
deliberations taking into account the IR bill and national
Global companies including Las Vegas Sands Corp and
Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd are vying to win the
first licences to operate casinos in Japan, a market that
brokerage CLSA estimates could generate annual revenue of $40
(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Matt Driskill)