Japan lawmakers submit casino legalisation bill

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Tokyo - Japan's pro-casino lawmakers submitted to parliament on Tuesday a bill to legalise casino gambling, the latest bid to establish an industry analysts say could generate $40bn a year and which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sees as key to economic growth.

Parliamentary records showed that members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Japan Innovation Party and the Party for Future Generations had submitted the bill, but it was unclear when it would be discussed or voted on.

The lawmakers have said they hoped the bill would pass before July or August, when the current parliamentary session is expected to end.

Attempts to legalise casino gambling in Japan, which industry experts say is one of the world's last major untapped gaming markets, have been delayed repeatedly amid opposition from lawmakers worried about addiction and organised crime.

Some members of the Buddhist-backed Komeito, a junior partner in Abe's coalition government, oppose legalisation. Lawmakers in the pro-casino camp have said this opposition made it hard for them to push for the bill even though supporters slightly outnumber opponents in parliament.

Failure to pass the bill would also delay the drafting of a crucial second bill on implementation which outlines details on regulations.

Companies such as Las Vegas Sands Corp and MGM Resorts International are vying to win licences to operate casinos in Japan, a market that brokerage CLSA estimates could generate annual revenue of $40bn.

Analysts have said it was already looking difficult to build resorts in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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