The Long Awaited Casino Bill Passed
Last Thursday, Japanese Parliament has finally passed a bill lifting the ban on casinos after being first proposed in 2013. This opens up a lot of investment opportunity and paves the way to competition for control over Japan’s potential 40 Billion gaming industry.
The bill will follow a Singaporean model where casinos will be integrated resorts (IRs) which will house hotels, casinos, malls, entertainment facilities and maybe even theme parks.
Members of the Buddhist-based Komeito Party and the Democratic Party fear that this may spike up problems like money laundering and gambling addiction. As it is, the Health Ministry state that more than 5 Million people in Japan, which roughly translates to 5% of the population have a gambling problem. That is a lot as compared to the 1% seen in many other countries. They also fear that this may be fertile ground for a rise in criminality led by Japan’s organized crime syndicate, aka, The Yakuza.
But Prime Minister Shinto Abe defends the bill by saying that the passing of the bill will invite numerous investments, create of thousands of jobs and attract wealthy tourists that can only bode well for the Japanese economy.
Two port cities, Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan, and Osaka, the commercial center in the Japanese island of Honshu, are being eyed as the venue for the IRs.
Although, the capital city of Tokyo is also being considered, Governor Yuriko Koike has not been clear of her stand regarding the IRs.
Sapporo, the fourth largest city in Japan will also make its proposal to be a location for these integrated resorts.
Expecting the casinos to open in 2022 at the earliest, the IRs will definitely not make it in time for the 2020 Olympics. However, it is believed that the opening of the IRs after the Olympics will reinforce tourism after the sports event.
Gaming Moguls ready to enter Japan
Last Tuesday, 3 gaming stocks’ trading closed more than 3 % in the US Stock market, namely, Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts – the 3 main players waiting and ready to enter the Japanese gaming industry after the lifting of the ban.
Las Vegas Sands said in 2014 that if the ban was lifted it was ready to spend $10 billion in Japan.
Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson said “We will spend whatever it takes. We could pay all cash.”
On the other hand, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said the they will eventually have more than $4 Billion expenditure for the IRs in Japan. “The reason why everyone’s spending the time on this is that the potential is absolutely enormous,” said Murren.
“It would dwarf the Singapore market in size and could be extraordinarily lucrative for all the investors, real estate and operators alike.” He added, “I have high confidence that MGM is going to be a front runner in one of these markets.”
Effects on Poker
As Japan is following the Singaporean model, it is unsure that poker will be as present in the casinos as it is in Las Vegas. Poker is normally used by casinos as a marketing tool as it doesn’t really generate a lot of revenue unlike other games such as Baccarat.
The poker scene may have to remain in a brick and mortar poker club format. But on a positive note, the casino bill is the first step and may pave the way to legalize gambling in general.
Article by Gabrielle Barredo