Japan legislators could be about to move on legalising casinos a lot quicker than analysts had originally anticipated with Hiroyuki Hosoda, the Chairman of a cross-party group of lawmakers endorsing casino development in Japan, saying the aim is to present a casino bill to the next diet session, expected to begin next month. The desire is to get the bill approved next year in the following session of parliament.
The swing towards casino gaming has gained momentum due to Japan’s capital Tokyo beating Madrid and Istanbul to become the host of the 2020 Olympics Games.
Casinos are currently banned in Japan.
Mr. Hosoda highlighted that a lot of Japanese nationals travelled to casinos overseas to play meaning the concept of a ban didn’t actually make sense; it just meant tax revenues went to other governments. He added that it could take five years for the first casino to be opened after the law is approved.
CLSA Asia-Pacific analyst Jay Defibaugh believes Japan will legalise casinos as soon as October or November, starting the race to licence and open resorts by 2019 or 2020.
“Victory for Tokyo’s Olympic bid is beneficial for legislation to legalize casinos,” he said. “We have all the ingredients to make it happen, so anything that gets the administration to put a high priority on casinos versus all the other issues they’re dealing with is good.”
Analysts Union Gaming Group believe Japan, which currently bans casinos, could quickly become the second biggest casino marker in the world Behind Macau with $10bn in annual revenue if casinos were approved. Union’s Grant Govertsen said of Japan: “Practically overnight it should be the No. 2 gaming market in the world, second only to Macau. We believe it will quickly surpass Singapore, and surpass Manila quicker still.”
The big name operators are already jostling for position.
Steven Tight, President for International Development for Caesars, added: “We are starting to think through designs and master plans and partners we think would be most appropriate and really starting to invest more heavily in this effort.”
Wynn Resorts Development President and Chief Operating Officer Gamal Aziz said any investment in a Japan casino would be ‘way bigger’ than the $4bn it is about to invest in its current project in Macau’s Cotai area.
MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle said it would spend ‘several billion dollars’ on a development in Japan. Both confirmed they would partner with local consortium to develop casino projects.
Las Vegas Sands, Melco Crown and SJM Holdings have all also confirmed their interest.
SJM’s Chief Executive Officer Ambrose So said: “We can bring technical know-how to a local partner in Japan.
He added that SJM would prefer to operate in Osaka rather than Tokyo as the Japanese capital city didn’t offer land for large development.
Mr Govertsen of Union Gaming believes though that the operators of Singapore’s two casinos are best placed to profit from Japan. “The two Singapore IR licensees, Las Vegas Sands and Genting Singapore have probably been a little more vocal about Japan than their peers,” he said. “They are likely the front-runners for the big licenses. However, all major international gaming operators are extremely interested in Japan and already have teams in Japan laying groundwork.”