As the Asian casino market continues to grow at a rapid pace, global casino operators are keeping a close watch on Japan as lawmakers in the country are pushing for the ban on the casino industry to be lifted. On 29 September, a group of lawmakers in the country drafted a bill that will permit the development of integrated resorts that will allow these resorts to operate casinos and hotels. Lawmakers confirmed that they plan to introduce this bill before current Diet session is concluded for the year.

One of the reasons for the bill gaining momentum is that Toshihiro Nikai was elected in August as the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Nikai who is a strong supporter of legalizing the casino industry replaced Sadakazu Tanigaki who was not very aggressive towards lifting the ban on the casino industry. Nikai stated earlier this month that it was important for integrated resorts to be developed in Japan and lawmakers needed to speak openly on these issues and get the public to support their development.

The current penal code in Japan prohibits casinos from operating in the country. Back in December 2013, lawmakers submitted a bill to the Diet to approve casinos but the bill was dropped in November 2014 after the House of Representatives was resolved. The bill was once again submitted for review in April 2015 but there was no progress made as lawmakers were concerned over the repercussions of the casino industry. There are many lawmakers including the opposing Komeito party who believe that legalizing the casino industry will lead to serious gambling addictions and an increase of crime.

However lawmakers in the LDP believe that the casino industry will boost Japan’s economy as there are a number of international casino operators who are willing to invest billions to develop these integrated casino resorts. Lawmakers have been trying since 2014 to get the Diet to approve the bill so that these multi-billion dollar resorts could be developed before the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic and Olympic games.

In a statement, Koichi Hagiuda said “A bidding war to host international exhibitions and international conferences is going on between various countries. Integrated resorts are an extremely effective tool when soliciting private investment for making exhibition sites and other such facilities.

Both veteran and young lawmakers in the Kansai and Kyushu regions are urging lawmakers to calmly discuss the legalization of casinos based on factual data and not emotions. These two regions are potential sites for future integrated casino resorts and would benefit greatly from hosting these multi-billion dollar integrated resorts. One senior LDP official who wished to remain anonymous said that there is a possibility that the Komeito party could be persuaded to support the bill and get it passed, provided the Komeito party allows all of its members to vote freely and not just toe the line.