Monday, December 09, 2013

OK, I'm Game

Readers have taken exception to my recent post on the chances for the bill legalizing casino gambling passing the Diet. Many have pointed out that the forces in favor of the legislation, including nominally Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, did manage to submit the legislation to the House of Representatives on what would have been the second-to-last-day of the extraordinary session, after what was an incredibly brief review of the bill by the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council. (Link)

Despite these developments, my basic view remains unchanged: any bill attempting to legalize casinos would run up against furious opposition from the domestic gambling industries. The pachinko industry would lose its marbles, having spent fortunes to avoid the prohibition against gambling, the physical manifestations of which are small kiosks around the corner from parlors where patrons to redeem their phoney prizes for cash. To have upfront legal gambling establishments would tick pachinko owners off. It would also bring howls of protest from the organizations running the various racing formats and the national lottery, all of whom stay in the good graces of national and local government by paying through the nose on social welfare and public conveniences.

To whit, whatever money and political support politicians could extort from a few mega resorts, located near either Osaka or Tokyo, or from a smattering of smaller casinos plunked in depressed resort towns like Atami, this would be small potatoes beside the lost donations and votes resulting from a stiffing of the domestic gambling sector.

Scuttlebutt now, however, links the passage of the casino legislation with the move of the assets of Marine Corps Airbase Futenma to Henoko, Okinawa. In return for accepting the much-hated move of the base to a new location within the prefecture, Okinawans get one or perhaps the only license for an integrated resort, with the emptied Futenma airbase site as the major candidate for the new casino-recreation complex. (Link - J)

If that is the deal, which kills a flock of birds (pleasing the U.S. Pentagon + buying off the Okinawans for accepting an unfair base burden + fostering Okinawa economic development + bringing Asia's gamblers in but keeping them at arm's length) with one stone, then I can see daylight for the legalization.

Whether or not this cutting of what has been a Gordian knot for Japanese domestic politics and Japan-U.S. relations is attractive to international gambling conglomerates -- that is another question.

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