By Nathan Layne
TOKYO | Thu Oct 3, 2013 8:49pm EDT
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan would establish an independent gaming regulator modeled on the authorities that police casinos in Las Vegas and Singapore under a draft plan to legalize gambling in a market seen as potentially the second-largest in the world.
The policy outline, which was prepared by Japanese lawmakers who favor casinos and reviewed by Reuters, outlines broad standards for licensing and regulating casino operators and their partners.
After more than a decade of lobbying by lawmakers, a bill to legalize casino gambling is seen as having a good chance of passing in the coming months with the business-friendly Liberal Democratic Party in power and after Tokyo -- a likely casino host -- won the bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2020.
MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corp, Melco Crown Entertainment and Wynn Resorts Ltd are among the global operators that have shown interest in developing a casino resort in Japan.
Among the concerns lawmakers who favor legalizing casinos believe need to be addressed is what measures will be taken to keep out organized crime, known in Japan as the "yakuza." To address those concerns, the draft plan calls for the creation of an agency that would have control over the issuing of licenses and the policing of gaming operations.
"The hurdles to enter the business should be set high. It should not be easy for anyone to get a license and participate in the industry," the policy plan says. "With proper regulation and enforcement of the law, there is absolutely no reason for casinos to become hotbeds of criminal activity."
Details of the draft plan have not previously been reported.
The plan also recommends stringent checks on the "suitability" of the people and businesses involved of the kind conducted by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.