Japan Delays Casino Withholding Tax Plan Before it Gets Off the Ground

Posted on: December 11, 2019, 10:52h. 

Last updated on: December 11, 2019, 11:49h.

A recent proposal by Japanese politicians to impose a withholding tax on winnings of foreign gamblers at the country’s yet-to-be-constructed integrated resorts is already being delayed before the idea gained much momentum.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party is opposing a casino withholding tax plan. (Image: Financial Times)

Previously, policymakers believed it would be beneficial to gaming companies, federal revenue agencies, and the prefectures in which the integrated resorts will be located to lay out tax policy prior to the opening of the venues. However, the idea encountered resistance from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a conservative political group that’s Japan’s ruling alliance.

The burden on the business community will be considerable, and the tax proposal could reduce investment in Japan’s casinos,” said an unidentified LDP member in an interview with broadcaster NHK.

Previously, government officials said that not deciding on a tax structure in advance of the opening of gaming properties in Japan could impact operators’ expenditure plans. But those statements weren’t viewed as endorsements of the withholding levy proposal.

Talking Taxes

The US and South Korea are among the countries that impose withholding taxes on gambling winnings of non-resident visitors. In the US, the IRS levies a 30 percent tax rate on international gamblers’ winnings, and those players can’t take a deduction on losses, a privilege enjoyed by US citizens and Canadian tourists.

The threshold for IRS reporting at US casinos is winnings of $600, or 300 times the original bet, whichever is greater. The IRS does not require withholding taxes on proceeds won at table games, such as blackjack or roulette.

Japanese policymakers hadn’t gotten into the finer details of the withholding plan. But it was hoped it would be part of broader tax reform plans to be included in the 2020 fiscal year budget set to be debated next month.

The process for selecting which cities will become homes to gaming properties is expected to start in early 2021 and potentially drift into the middle of that year. There is speculation that the selected metropolitan areas will choose operators the following year.

Tough Environment

News of the withholding tax delay arrives amid a recently trying stretch for Japan’s integrated resort ambitions. Recently, the Hokkaido prefecture abandoned plans to participate in the gaming property competition, citing environmental concerns.

Additionally, some operators, including Las Vegas Sands, have expressed concerns about the hefty price tags associated with building gaming properties in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Analysts believe it will cost a minimum of $10 billion to build high-end integrated resorts in Japan, and that the price tag for a single venue could possibly reach $15 billion. Sands executives previously mentioned a range of $10 billion to $12 billion for a single property, while Melco Resorts chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho recently noted it’ll cost a minimum of $10 billion to put a casino-resort in Yokohama.

Either way, one Japanese gaming property is likely to exceed the cost of several Las Vegas Strip venues combined, and be the world’s most expensive integrated resort.