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Japan Casinos Seen Gaining Support With Ministers’ Appointments

Two of Japan’s cabinet ministers were appointed advisers to a pro-gambling group of politicians, possibly smoothing the way for the legalization of casinos after past efforts failed to gain sufficient lawmaker support.

Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura were named to the group’s advisory panel, which already includes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, according to a statement distributed at a meeting of the association today.

The high-level of support for casinos comes four months after the electoral defeat of previous Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who publicly opposed considering the idea. Members of the group plan to introduce legislation that would set guidelines for legalizing casinos after the upper house elections in July, when a coalition led by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party hopes to seize a majority.

“This whole ’Casino, let’s get it legalized’ matter has been going on for more than a decade, but it’s coming more into grasp,” said Kenji Okamoto, managing director for Japan of Spectrum OSO Asia, a gaming consultant. “The main reason is they’re getting these ‘king-makers’ to be more involved in moving the matter forward.”

LDP lawmakers Hiroyuki Hosada and Takeshi Iwaya were appointed chairman and secretary-general of the pro-gambling group at today’s meeting, its first since the party came to power.

Motegi and Shimomura had been members of the group before their appointments today. The heavy involvement of cabinet members in the group “shows the cabinet’s stance on casinos,” Shimomura said.

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