Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Abe Coalition Partner Seeks to Limit Number of Casinos to Three

  • Komeito casino panel chief Kiyohiko Toyama speaks in interview
  • Coalition parties may clash over casino regulations this month

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition partner wants to limit to three the number of casinos to be licensed initially under the government’s plan to bring gaming resorts into the world’s third-largest economy, a key lawmaker said.

Some in Abe’s main ruling Liberal Democratic Party called last week for the plan to be expanded to about five resorts under a bill his administration hopes to pass in the current parliament session. The two parties must hammer out their differences before the law is passed.

"For Komeito, I think it will be extremely hard to go higher than three," Kiyohiko Toyama, who heads the Buddhist-backed party’s casino panel, said in an interview in Tokyo. "If it goes well we could increase it a bit. Komeito is not saying three should be the limit forever, but let’s try three to start with."

Japan legalized casinos just over a year ago and the world’s biggest operators, including MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp., are waiting for the passage of further legislation that would kick off the bidding. Under the law, the gambling venues have to be part of large-scale resorts that incorporate hotels and exhibition centers.

Bureaucrats last week unveiled a draft of the legislation, leaving some decisions up to the ruling parties, including the number of casinos to be approved.

Entrance Fees

Komeito will also probably seek to push the entrance fee for residents of Japan higher than the 2,000 yen ($19) proposed by bureaucrats, Toyama said. But any increase, he added, should be balanced by lower taxes to allow operators to make a profit.

The LDP and Komeito are expected to start delayed discussions about casino regulation next week, Toyama said. He added that they must agree on a bill by the end of March and submit it in the first half of April to pass it in the current session that ends in June.

Some members of Komeito, including its leader, have shown reluctance to allow gambling resorts in Japan. However, the country already permits lotteries, betting on horse and other types of races and the pinball-like game of pachinko.

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