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Japan panel approves casino entrance fee

[TOKYO] A working panel of the ruling parties discussing legislation for so-called integrated resorts with casinos has agreed on a 6,000 yen (S$73.95) entrance fee for casinos.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito have also finished discussing other items related to casino regulation, sources said.

The government and ruling parties want to obtain a Cabinet decision on the draft legislation this month and pass it into law during the current Diet session. However, the public remains deeply concerned about an increase in gambling addiction.

The casino entrance fee would apply to Japanese citizens and foreigners living in Japan.

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The government initially proposed 2,000 yen, but Komeito, which places great importance on measures to prevent gambling addiction, insisted on "about 8,000 yen at least," which is on par with what Singapore charges in its integrated resort projects.

The LDP then proposed 5,000 yen, citing Singapore's larger per capita gross domestic product. However, Komeito was unwilling to accept this at a meeting on Monday. In the Tuesday meeting, Komeito ultimately agreed on 6,000 yen.

The working panel previously agreed that there would be a maximum of three casinos, and that this figure would be reexamined seven years after the approval of the first one.

A prefecture or municipality that applies to build a resort will need to get the approval of its assembly and the agreement of the city, town or village where the resort would be.

The panel also agreed that casino revenue would go to the national and other governments at a fixed rate of 30 per cent.

Japanese customers would be allowed three visits to casinos per week, with a maximum of 10 visits per month. Visits would be tracked using My Number identification cards.

The government and ruling parties want to obtain a Cabinet decision on draft legislation that incorporates the panel's agreements, and then submit it to the Diet as early as April.

However, the Cabinet Committee, where the casino legislation would be deliberated, is expected to first take up legislation related to the new Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact involving Japan, Australia and nine other nations.

In response to public concerns about gambling addiction, most of the opposition parties intend to oppose the legislation and seek a thorough debate on the matter.

With an LDP presidential election scheduled for autumn, extending the Diet session past June 20 may be difficult. Whether the legislation will be enacted during the current session remains unclear.

WP