New Japanese Prime Minister to Stick to Shinzo Abe’s Casino Expansion and Integrated Casino Resorts Policy

Yoshihide Suga, the new Prime Minister of Japan, has unveiled his intention to keep a key official from his predecessor’s cabinet, who has been closely related to the process of integrated casino resorts’ legalization.

Mr. Suga was officially named Prime Minister on September 16th, taking over the position from Shinzo Abe, after getting the support of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). At the time when he held his speech, Abe’s successor revealed that he would stick to his predecessor’s policies, one of which was Japan’s gambling expansion through the addition of so-called integrated casino resorts, also known as IRs.

Once called the “shadow Prime Minister” in Abe’s cabinet, Suga is known for his firm-hand approach and his stubbornness when it comes to political decisions. He was backed by 314 out of 465 lawmakers in the House of Representatives in the Parliament, and 142 out of 240 lawmakers in the House of Councilors.

Now, 11 out of the first 20-member Cabinet of Prime Minister Suga were members of former PM Abe’s administration. They were either retained at their previous positions or shifted to new ministerial posts. The Cabinet position that has been considered most notable for the integration casino resorts’ process, is the one of the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. That role would be retained by now-Minister Kazuyashi Akaba, a senior lawmaker from the Liberal Democratic Party, who has long been engaged in the legalization of commercial gambling in the country.

Local Governments Have until July 30th, 2021 to Submit Integrated Casino Project Proposals

For the time being, Japan is the third-largest economy by nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on a global scale. However, the role its tourism sector has had for the economy has declined, especially in comparison to the rest of the countries in G7 (the UK, the US, Italy, France, Canada and Germany).

The former Prime Minister set a goal of welcoming 60 million tourists on an annual basis by 2030 – an objective that has seemed to be a lot more doable after an expansion of the country’s gambling sector is made. So, the Japanese Government gave the green light to the liberalization of the market, announcing a total of three integrated casino licenses that are set to be granted at first.

Now, the local governments of Osaka, Wakayama, Yokohama and Nagasaki are the four remaining candidates for hosting the initial casino resorts. However, these local governments have announced a delay in their bidding policies because they need the Basic Policy on casinos to be first released by the Central Government.

In August, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism revealed that the central government was considering the possibility of further delay in the timeline it gave for the casino gambling expansion. Mr. Akaba said at the time that some operators of integrated casino resorts who have partnered with local governments have faced certain hurdles with the casino license application process because the coronavirus pandemic outbreak has slowed things down. Some analysts’ have even shared that the future of integrated resorts in the country remains uncertain.

Despite some potential adjustments to the timeline of the integrated casino resorts, Minister Akaba confirmed that July 30th, 2021 remains the current deadline for interested cities and prefectures to submit their casino project proposals to the Central Government for further traction.

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