Japan takes first steps to $40bn casino industry

Japan takes first steps to $40bn casino industry

Friday, May 1, 2015 Totally Gaming
Sheldon Adelson is interested in bringing casinos to Japan

Japan has moved a step closer to introducing casino resorts that could help it become one of the world's biggest gambling markets.

After some 13 years of discussions and setbacks, a bill supported by a coalition that includes the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was finally introduced to the country's parliament this week and is expected to be passed by August as politicians seek to get the so-called Integrated Resorts (IR) up and running in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

IR, which would combine casinos with hotel, luxury retail and entertainment complexes, could generate up to $40bn (€35.5bn) per year according to brokerage frim CLSA.

Professor Toru Mihara of Osaka University of Commerce is an exponent of gambling who helped to draft legislation and believes that the linking of the casinos with tourism and leisure, as well as the potential for tax revenues, will appeal to lawmakers.

“We’ve finally drawn the attention of top-level politicians. Casinos, if successful, will be a true flagship legacy for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe," Mihara said.

“Because of the complexity of the regulatory structures, we have to go forward step-by-step. The bill outlines certain philosophies of an integrated resort, and also obliges the government to prepare, draft up and present to the Diet what it calls a low implantation of integrated resorts."

Some of the biggest gambling companies in the world have been keeping a close eye on developments, with Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson last year announcing he was ready to invest $10bn in casinos in both Tokyo and Osaka.

His desire to push for casinos in Japan was highlighted last year by a story in Israeli newspaper Haaretz which suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - whose Likud Party receives funding from Adelson's company - had lobbied Japanese officials about the gambling industry. Netanyahu denied the claim.

Adelson said: "Right now our focus is on encouraging Asian countries, like Japan and Korea, to dramatically enhance their tourism offering through the development of integrated resorts there. We will spend whatever it takes."

With the race on to get the IRs ready for 2020, the initial bill must be passed before the drafting of a crucial second bill on implementation which outlines details on regulations.

Some members of the Buddhist-backed Komeito, a junior partner in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's coalition government, are believed to oppose legalisation. Lawmakers in the pro-casino camp have said this opposition makes it hard for them to push for the bill even though supporters slightly outnumber opponents in parliament.

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