Japanese IR supporters 'must make case'

Japanese IR supporters 'must make case'

Monday, August 24, 2015 Totally Gaming
JgC speaker calls for unity after vote delay

Supporters of Japan’s prospective casino industry need to be more effective in putting forward their case, according to Fredric Gushin, the managing director of Spectrum Gaming.

Gushin will take part in a session entitled ‘IR regulation – Which models are most appropriate for Japan?’ at the Japan Gaming Congress (JgC) in October. A parliamentary vote that was originally earmarked for September on the issue of Integrated Resorts (IR) has been postponed until next year. Reports suggest that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party does not feel it can get the support of its Buddhist Komeito coalition partners at this time, but will return to the issue at a special Diet session in the future.

Gushin believes that all those who wish to see IRs in the country in the future must use the delay to build a stronger case for their introduction.

“Supporters of the IRs need to more effectively explain the positive and negative impacts of IRs in Japan and build a broader political consensus for the IRs in Japan,” he told TotallyGaming.com.

“The next legislative session will create an opportunity to present the IR issue and to build a broader base of political support among the general population.”

While the postponement of the vote was a frustration for those companies hoping to launch in Japan, the positive outlook would be to celebrate the fact that legislation has even been discussed at parliamentary level in 2015 after years of procrastination.

As with Singapore – and the doomed Supercasino project in the UK in the 2000s – it seems likely that, should legislation be passed, Japan will introduce a two-tier bidding process, with locations chosen first and then operators for the winning areas identified.

The likes of Crown, Galaxy, Las Vegas Sands and MGM have each expressed an interest in developing IRs in Japan, but just as interesting will be where the developments occur, with more than 20 cities having expressed some level of interest. While capital city Tokyo has been reticent about revealing its hand, Osaka’s governor has already invited operators to put forward plans for a resort around Osaka Bay and the Mayor of Yokohama has identified land near to Yamashita Park.

Gushin backs the two-tier process and, with hopes fading of resorts being completed in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, has even posed the question as to whether construction could begin prior to legislation, with the possibility of casino elements being added should the law allow in the future.

Gushin said: “The framework for IRs and the number of IRs are political questions to be determined in the legislation that is ultimately enacted. However, it is generally preferred to have a competition of sorts between the cities/prefectures that are interested in hosting IRs and then to have a competitive process in those prefectures that are ultimately selected.

“Issues that will have to be addressed include the structure of IR ownership, whether IRs can be built now and be expanded to include casino style gaming and whether there are companies willing to invest in IRs without casinos for the short term.”

Spectrum Gaming itself is a business intelligence company that has advises both government and private sector organisations throughout the world on gaming industry matters.

The fact that its Spectrum Asia subsidiary has had an office in Tokyo for more than 11 years shows just how long the debate about IRs has been taking place in Japan, and the company has played some role within pretty much every country within the continent over the last 24 years.

Singapore is one of the nations that Spectrum has worked with closely, but while many see that jurisdiction as being a potential blueprint for Japan’s gaming industry, Gushin is set to tell attendees at his JgC session that much can be learned from others.

“Singapore will clearly be a strong model for gaming legislation and control of IRs in Japan,” he said. “However it certainly is not the only model. There are also important lessons to be learned from Nevada and some of the Australian jurisdictions that will make the Japan model state-of-the-art once enacted and implemented.

“The most important point is that the concepts of all of these jurisdictions are important but that whatever model is chosen has to reflect the Japanese laws, culture and society and need to be applied on Japan.”

JgC will take place at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo from October 7-9. Visit www.japangamingcongress.com for more information.

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