Japanese lawmakers are set to indefinitely postpone legalizing casinos as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose cabinet has been hit by a series of scandals, lacks the political leverage to pass a bill this year, sources directly involved in the process said.
The latest in a string of delays for the controversial bill will be a blow for Abe, who has promoted casino resorts as part of his economic growth program, and for casino developers from Las Vegas to Macau. It also dashes hopes for any casino resort to be built in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Gaming companies such as Las Vegas Sands, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International have been hoping Abe would unlock an "integrated resort" market that brokerage CLSA estimated could generate annual revenue of $40 billion.
Pro-casino lawmakers intend to push back a vote on the bill instead of trying to pass it in the current parliamentary session ending this month, three people directly involved in pushing the casino bill told Reuters on Tuesday.
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Although they aim to keep the bill on the table, the sources said there was a considerable chance it would not come up for discussion even in 2015.
Higher-priority bills, including those related to national defense, are likely to take up debate time in the next parliament session, they said.
"If they can't pass it now, I doubt whether they'll ever be able to pass it," one of the sources said.
The bill was already in a tight race for time to pass by the Nov 30 end of the current session. It faced opposition from some members of Komeito, Abe's junior coalition party, and from some quarters of his own Liberal Democratic Party, who are concerned about the impact of gambling addictions.