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Japan expected to legalize casinos soon

A move to legalize casinos in Japan is expected to come to fruition in the coming months according to a leading lawmaker backing the proposals.

Koichi Hagiuda, the secretary-general of a group behind Japan’s casino bill told reporters recently that he is hopeful of making progress throughout October, with a view to having casinos fully operational in Japan in time for the 2010 Summer Olympic Games.

““We want to finish up in the lower house in the first half of October and send it on to the upper house,” said Mr. Hagiuda, who also serves as an aide to Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.

The casino industry has experienced unprecedented growth over the last several years, and it’s no wonder Mr. Hagiuda and his lawmaker’s group are eager to get the proverbial ball rolling. Leading casinos and bookmakers top casino game promos and others around the world have boasted huge profits since measures were taken in other countries such as the UK. Now Japan are looking to follow suit, and possibly create Asia’s second largest gaming mecca, one step behind the world’s biggest in Macau.

To do so, the group behind the bill expect to see billions of dollars poured into Japan’s casino industry, an announcement which resulted in a rise in share prices for leading casino game manufacturers when it was first reported by news service Bloomberg.

Among those seeing a reversal in fortunes, Japan Cash Machine Co. Ltd. (6418), who manufacture coin counters used in casino games, and both Konami Corp. and Sega Sammy Holdings, who produce the popular pachinko machines all experienced an about turn after share prices had begun to decline.

Charges for residents

Following a recent visit by Prime Minster Abe to the Singapore, Japan’s legal casino lobbyists announced plans to replicate the country’s approach to reducing the risk of gambling addiction by charging citizens and permanent residents an entry fee.

Singapore currently has just two casinos, owned and managed by Vegas Sands Corp. and Genting Singapore Plc respectively. In each case, a fee is charged to residents and citizens of S$100 ($78 USD) for a daily pass and S$2,000 for a yearly pass.

In Japan, the fee is expected to be 5,000 yen ($46) per visit. As in Singapore, overseas visitors will be permitted entry for free.

Political divide

“The government is preparing for this with great drive,” said Mr. Hagiuda. “If we go ahead with two or three sites, those Japanese people who are currently opposed will be able to see how pleasant these facilities are."

He is referring to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's coalition partners Komeito, who are currently split on the move to legalize casinos. The former party currently boast a majority in the lower-house, meaning it should be easier to get the bill through during parliament’s autumn session which runs from September 30th to November 30th.

Once things progress to the upper house however, things get a little trickier. There, Mr. Hagiuda and his contingent will need support from Komeito if their proposals are to stand any chance of success.