Japan election, Supreme Court ruling loom large in 2018

Oct 17, 2017 3:00 AM

On Oct. 22 the eyes of the gaming industry will be on Japan’s special election. While Japan has already decided to permit legalized casino style gaming, the governing laws, regulations and related details have been moving at a snail’s pace through the bureaucratic processes with an eye on appeasing the appropriate and needed political powers.

Initially on the announcement of the special election, most gaming operatives, hopeful of securing the inside track for their respective companies, groaned at the idea that the special election would slow up the process of finalizing needed regulations. However, as the desire for legalized casino style gaming in Japan originated with Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, the special election may in fact significantly speed up the process.

Here is the reasoning, Prime Minister Abe was able to muscle through the appropriate legislation to get gaming on but he needed a coalition of votes from diverse interests including those that are OK with gaming as long as it is tightly controlled and heavily restricted. Accordingly, as the rules and regulations are being developed they are being prepared and evaluated with an eye on keeping certain needed minority political factions happy.

Yet with the shifts in political popularity spurred on by the silly but bellicose actions of North Korea, Prime Minister Abe saw his personal and party popularity surge such that he has an opportunity to consolidate his party’s control of the Japanese Diet (Japan’s form of Congress).

If current polls are accurate and hold true with the election on Oct. 22, Prime Minister Abe may find himself with a 75% majority in the Japanese Diet. If so, not only will he be able to push through his and a majority of the population’s desired changes to the Japanese constitution for various military purposes but also dictate his desire for rules and regulations around casino style gaming. Of course, those companies that have gaming interests in alignment with the Prime Minister’s will certainly be happy should the elections go the way expected.

By contrast, and of no surprise, those gaming companies that are not intersected directly or through regional politics with the prime minister’s interest will likely find themselves scrambling for a road to a license.

While casino style gaming will have very little if any voice in the coming Japanese elections and there is still time for one or more minority party interests to gain traction, any further testing by North Korea that gets anywhere near Japan will pretty much lock up the election for Abe and most probably accelerate, not decelerate, the timing of issuing Japan’s first full resort style gaming license.

As interested as the gaming industry will be in the Japanese election results, 6,776 miles away and 43 days later, U.S. gaming companies will have their eyes turned to the U.S. Supreme Court. Dec. 4 is the current date set for the Justices to hear arguments and ask questions over the long overdue pleadings of New Jersey to be set free from the federal laws barring their offering of legal sports wagering within their sovereign boarders. It is virtually impossible to guess if the court will support strict constitutional constructions, which would support New Jersey’s claims that essentially sports wagering is outside the preview of the national government to regulate, or if the court will consider other practicalities outside of the presented arguments pro or con to the issue.

While we would all generally like our courts to follow to the letter of the law and certainly not create law from the bench, the bench is still filled with human beings with their own concepts of right and wrong as well as thoughts about social and economic needs. It would not surprise this writer at all if the winning argument is one that is not even presented in the court, which is that the states, local and federal jurisdictions simply need the tax dollars.

When PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) was passed back in 1992 the U.S. national debt was a mere $5 trillion and most states were not struggling budget-wise as they do today, and economics rarely ever entered the deliberations of the judiciary. Now, as states struggle with their respective budgets and the national debt is kissing $20 trillion, economics probably weighs more heavily into the thoughts of the Justices than they are willing to admit.

Should Prime Minister Abe get his 75%-plus majority in the Japanese Diet and the Supreme Court rule that PASPA is unconstitutional, 2018 could turn into one very dynamic and seminal year in gaming.