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Land gambling casino law passes in Japan

It's been a long haul but Japan has finally made legislative progress in legalising the introduction of three land casino resorts.

On Friday parliament approve controversial legislation that has been the subject of intense debate and argument for months, allowing three land casino resorts to be licensed in a bid to enhance tourism facilities.

The bill was approved and enacted into law at the upper house after the ruling faction drove it through following a positive vote earlier in the lower house.

The enactment of the “integrated resorts” law means casinos can operate at resorts that include hotels, conference rooms and shopping malls in the mid-2020s.

Media surveys have showed a majority of Japanese oppose the plan. Projections by experts show casino visitors would be predominantly Japanese, rather than foreign tourists.

The Associated Press news agency reports that the approval Friday was delayed for hours by opposition parties’ protests. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano criticised the casino law and other policies of the Abe government, filibustering at an earlier lower house session for 2 hours and 43 minutes, the longest known since 1972.

Edano condemned Abe for “prioritising gambling (law)”over support for victims of recent deadly floods in western Japan.

The law will allow up to three casinos to operate but they are unlikely to open until the mid-2020s, after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Several cities, including Osaka and Wakayama in western Japan, Yokohama, a southern port city of Sasebo, and a few cities on the northern island of Hokkaido have expressed interests to bid for casino licenses. Host cities and the central government split 30 percent of the casino revenue they collect as tax.

To address concerns about addiction, the law limits local residents to three casino visits per week and 10 per month. Admission will be free for foreigners but a set price for residents in Japan.

Gaming operators, including major U.S. players such as MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands Corp., have made proposals since last year.

Japan has a significantly high gambling addiction rate among advanced nations, according to AP.

A 2017 study by the health ministry found that about 3.2 million people, or about 3.6 percent of the adult population, were thought to be addicted to gambling, far higher than many other countries – 1.2 percent in France, 0.4 percent in Italy and 0.2 percent in Germany. Many experts and former addicts say pachinko was the main culprit.

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