Gaming analysts and political pundits have predicted that Japan could lift the ban on the gambling industry as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are in favor of legalizing ‘integrated resorts’ (IRs) to boost the economy and increase tourism in the country.

The casino bill which has been sponsored by legislators from the LDP cleared the House of Representative very fast which upset the opposition party who then staged a walkout. The casino bill is now under debate in the House of Councillors. During a debate on December 7, the opposition party criticized Prime Minister Abe and his government for their stance on the casino bill and rushing through the entire process.

Renho, the Democratic Party chief stated that legalizing the casino industry would cause a number of social problems and also create gambling addictions in the country. The Democratic chief also criticized the Abe government for rushing through the bill in the lower house and not debating the casino bill thoroughly.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended those arguments by stating it was highly regrettable that the Democratic Party had chosen to walk out of the House of Representations. He went on to say that the proposed IRs in the country will have a number of entertainment facilities apart from the casino and would be not only create employment opportunities in Japan but would also bring in a lot of foreign investment.

In a statement, Prime Minister Abe said “Foreign tourist numbers have doubled under the Abe administration, having gone from 8 million (in 2012) to 20 million (in 2016), and as we aim for 40 million by 2020, these integrated resorts will be able to be enjoyed by families, not just (used) for business activities or conferences”.

MGM Resorts and the Las Vegas Sands Corp have already expressed interest in developing multi-billion dollar integrated casino resorts in Japan. A team of senior executives from some of the major gambling enterprises in the world have been educating Japanese legislators on the benefits that IRs would generate for Japan. Should Japan approve the casino bill, two multi-billion dollar resorts are expected to be developed in Osaka and Tokyo.

Gaming analysts have predicted that the Japanese casino industry could generate as much as $40 million and become the second biggest gambling market in the world after Macau. Prime Minister Abe initially wanted to have two casino resorts opened before the 2020 Olympics and should the casino bill be approved before the end of this year, it could become possible.