TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's lower house of parliament on Tuesday passed a bill authorizing the opening of casinos in the country, despite strong public opposition amid concerns over gambling addiction and a possible increase in crime.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition is now trying to begin deliberations on the legislation in the upper house by the end of this week and to ensure its enactment by extending the current 150-day ordinary Diet session beyond Wednesday.
The government wants to introduce casinos through the establishment of "integrated resorts" comprising hotels, conference halls and other facilities as well, hoping they spur flagging economic growth, especially outside Tokyo, by attracting more foreign visitors.
Under the bill, which has been opposed by a large majority of opposition lawmakers, people living in Japan will be charged a 6,000 yen ($54) entrance fee, while foreign visitors can enter free of charge.
It permits casino facilities in up to three locations in Japan and restricts local people from entering them more than three times per week and 10 times per month.
If the Diet passes the legislation, casinos are likely to open in the mid-2020s.
A Kyodo News nationwide poll conducted over the weekend found that about 69 percent of people surveyed think it is unnecessary to pass the bill in the current Diet session.
On Tuesday, senior members of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and five other opposition parties visited House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima and told him that they are against extending the parliamentary session for the purpose of passing the bill.
But Oshima effectively rejected their position, saying, "There is no legal basis" for not accepting the extension request from the ruling coalition, according to senior opposition lawmakers.
Currently, the House of Councillors is also controlled by the ruling coalition.