Japan’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to legalize casino gambling, a long-awaited move that will open up a market worth tens of billions of dollars a year.
The controversial bill, which will pave way for opening of casinos in the country, will now undergo a review by the parliament’s upper house.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said it hopes to enact the bill before the current parliament session ends next week, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The LDP controls the two chambers with a smaller coalition partner.
The bill calls on regulators to develop specific plans on issues such as licensing operators and preventing gambling addicts from using the casinos.
Parliament will then need to approve final legislation for legalization before casino companies could develop their properties, likely in joint ventures with Japanese firms.
Proponents say they hope casinos could open in the early 2020s after the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Abe has sought to unlock the casino business since he became prime minister in December 2012, part of his strategy to put the nation on a growth track, the Journal noted.
He hopes to model it after Singapore, whose casinos anchor a resort area that combines gambling with dining, entertainment and conventions.
Opponents fear the new policy will promote gambling addiction and lead to organized crime getting involved in the casino market.
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