Japan Casinos Remain LDP Focus Despite Prime Minister Suga Surprise Resignation

By | September 6, 2021

The legalization of Japan casino resorts are unlikely to be impacted by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s surprising resignation.

Japan casino resort IR Prime Minister Suga
Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is calling it quits after his term expires at the end of September 2021. His resignation, however, isn’t expected to lengthen the odds of casinos coming to Japan. (Image: AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, 72, announced on September 3 that he will not seek reelection this fall. Suga became the LDP leader a year ago this month following his predecessor Shinzo Abe’s departure due to health reasons.

Suga has been dealt a series of recent defeats. Japan’s hosting of the Summer Olympics was largely panned throughout the country, and Yokohama’s mayoral upset of the Suga-backed candidate has proven polling data suggesting his unpopularity is valid.

I want to focus on coronavirus response, so I told the LDP executive meeting that I’ve decided not to run in the party leadership race,” Suga justified to reporters. “I judged that I cannot juggle both and I should concentrate on either of them.”

Abe was responsible for Japan’s National Diet passing legislation authorizing as many as three integrated resort (IR) casinos. Abe believes Japan must do more to diversify its tourism industry. Suga has carried on the mission.

LDP Defeats

Yokohama’s mayoral race was won by Dr. Takeharu Yamanaka, a data scientist whose work has focused on coronavirus vaccine efficiency. Yamanaka has no prior political experience, but won over city voters amid ongoing pandemic concerns, as well as his strong opposition to allowing Japan’s second largest city to bid on a casino license.

Yamanaka, an independent, managed to beat out pre-election betting favorite Hachiro Okonogi, an LDP member who was endorsed by Suga. Okonogi served Japan’s central government as a Diet member from 1993 until this year.

A majority of Yokohama residents said during exit polling that their opposition to a casino influenced their vote. Yamanaka says he will withdrawal Yokohama’s candidacy for one of the three casino licenses.

Casino Odds

Along with Yokohama’s mayoral outcome, the LDP lost power during the July Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election. Suga conceded at the time that he would meet with LDP officials and the Tokyo branch of the party to “analyze the outcome” of the defeat.

Despite the Suga and LDP setbacks, gaming observers don’t expect Japan’s casino legalization process to flutter. Whoever succeeds Suga, the general thought is that the new LDP boss will carry on with bringing Japan a casino industry.

Regardless of who wins the leadership election, it is believed that it will not significantly affect the direction of the LDP’s IR development policy, and any potential changes will be limited,” opined Shintaro Kamimura, a Tokyo-based reported for Inside Asian Gaming.

With Suga’s planned departure, the LDP will assemble a committee to review leadership candidates. The winner will become Japan’s next prime minister.

There are reports that Abe is preparing for yet another return to politics.

“It is widely understood that now that he has regained his health, Abe is readying for another run at the job,” Koichi Nakano, a politics professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University, told the South China Morning Post. “There are some clear pointers. He’s increasing his social media presence, and he’s making more personal appearances.”

Abe, 66, has served two stints as prime minister, the first from 2006 to 2007, and the second from 2012 to 2020.

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