Casino bill advances amid ‘side effect’ fears

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - Legislation for promoting the creation of “integrated resorts” that include casinos was approved by a House of Representatives committee through a combination of ruling and opposition party votes. 

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) — Legislation for promoting the creation of “integrated resorts” that include casinos was approved by a House of Representatives committee through a combination of ruling and opposition party votes. 
 The ruling Liberal Democratic Party teamed up with Nippon Ishin no Kai of the opposition to get the bill out of the Cabinet Committee on Friday. 
 Junior coalition partner Komeito was unable to reach a consensus in time and allowed its members to vote how they saw fit, resulting in a split vote from the party. 
 Although the government has included integrated resorts with casinos in its growth strategy, a number of problems remain.
Local govts show concern
 The legalization of casinos could come with many unintended consequences. Several of these were mentioned by Shigeki Sato of Komeito during Cabinet Committee deliberations Wednesday. 
 Legalized gambling is associated with “gambling addiction, money laundering, gang involvement, deterioration of community environments and public safety, and a negative impact on young people, among other things,” Sato said.
 According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 5.36 million people nationwide are thought to be addicted to gambling. This is 8.7 percent of all adult males, a higher proportion than in many other nations. 
 However, during the debate over the bill, the LDP’s Hiroyuki Hosoda gave only perfunctory responses to these concerns, such as, “We are asking the government to address this.”
 The LDP believes developing integrated resorts would “encourage tourism, vitalize communities and have other wide-ranging effects,” Hosoda said. However, Makoto Yonekawa, a consultant at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd., estimated that the economic effect of building three resorts nationwide would be about ¥5.1 trillion for construction, and then about ¥2 trillion per year thereafter. 
 Compared to the potential effect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact involving 12 countries, including Japan and the United States, which the government estimates would be about ¥13.6 trillion, “the impact would be small,” a government source said.
 Local governments that could eventually host the resorts have found cause for concern.
 The Osaka prefectural and city governments want to have an integrated resort built on Yumeshima, an artificial island in Konohana Ward, Osaka. The prefecture is also seeking to host the World Expo in 2025 and hopes the combination of a resort and the Expo will vitalize the community.
 Osaka Gov. and Nippon Ishin no Kai President Ichiro Matsui has been a leading proponent of the bill to legalize casinos, but local business circles have been more cautious. Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Hiroshi Ozaki said at a Nov. 18 press conference: “It’s been said [casinos] can have a variety of negative effects on society. It deserves careful consideration.”
 In a statement released Friday by the Yokohama municipal government, Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said integrated resorts would be “an effective means of vitalizing the downtown and waterfront areas.” The city is considering creating a new department to oversee the matter and has launched independent surveys of gambling addiction and other subjects in various countries.
 At her regular press conference on Friday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike simply said, “I intend to continue examining what would be best for Tokyo.”

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