Japan Passes Casino Bill, Opening Up Potential $40 Billion Market

Posted on: December 14, 2016, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: December 14, 2016, 07:27h.

Japan passes casino bill.
Japanese gamblers currently get their kicks in the country’s pachinko bars (pictured) but they soon could be flocking to giant integrated resorts operated by global casino giants. (Image: Japan Daily Press)

Japan, the sleeping giant of casino gaming, has awoken. In the early hours of Thursday morning, lawmakers in the upper house of the Japanese parliament passed the Integrated Resorts Promotion bill, paving the way for full scale casino resorts in the country.

Japan has not officially legalized casino gaming today, but this will now almost certainly happen within a year or so.

The IR Promotion bill gives the government a 12-month deadline to prepare a framework of regulation, which will lay down licensing requirements and measures to protect gambling addicts from using casinos.

Further legislation will be prepared in the coming year, which will authorize the licensing of casinos, with hopes that the first resorts can be completed by the early 2020s.

Billions in Investment

All this is music to the ears of global casino giants like MGM, which wasted no time in officially congratulating the Japanese parliament on its “tireless and successful effort” in passing the bill.

“After years of study in the region, we believe the opportunity exists to drive significant growth in sustainable travel and tourism, particularly from international segments, along with the creation of thousands of jobs and long-term economic benefit,” said the company.

“With an established, full-time development team in Tokyo pursuing discussions in Japan’s cultural and business communities, MGM Resorts is well-prepared to pursue future expansion efforts.”

MGM has pledged to invest $10 billion in a future market and has been buttering up the Japanese government by holding Kabuki theater events and showcasing Japanese artists in its art collections.

Sheldon Adelson’s LVS promised to spend the same amount when Japan came close to legalizing casinos in 2014, “in cash” if necessary, added Adelson for effect.

Competition to be Fierce

A bidding process for licenses is likely to be fierce, with all major operators eager to gain a foothold in a market that, by some estimates, could be worth as much as $40 billion per year.

It is not yet known how many initial licenses will be issued, or where the casinos will eventually be built, although the cities of Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka are all strong favorites.

MGM said it would now begin to advance its relationships with key stakeholders and create a coalition of Japanese business partners who will “collectively define a vision for a uniquely Japanese, world-class integrated resort.”

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had wanted the first resorts to open in 2020 for the Tokyo Olympics, it’s unlikely any will be ready until at least 2022.