Japanese gaming manufacturer Sega Sammy is the first domestic firm in the country to publicly express interest in bidding on one of the two integrated casino resorts expected to be authorized next fall.

Japanese gaming company Sega Sammy

Haruki Satomi’s Sega Sammy generates about one-fifth the annual revenue of Las Vegas Sands, but the Japanese gaming company might still hold the upper hand in trying to obtain one of his country’s coveted casino licenses. (Image: SEGA Bits)

Japan’s National Diet approved the legalization of commercial casinos last December. The bill’s passage, however, called for a second, more in-depth piece of legislation, to be crafted to address the regulatory specifics of the resorts.

In the meantime, a slew of global gambling companies are plotting to give their organizations the best odds of landing one of the two (potentially three) gaming licenses. While the usual suspects like Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Hard Rock, and Galaxy Entertainment, to name a few, are throwing out big numbers while hyping their interest, gaming companies in the island nation have stayed away from public comment until this week.

“We definitely want to take a bigger stake in Japan … the whole casino resort,” Sega Sammy President Haruki Satomi revealed during a conference in Tokyo. “We hope to take a majority stake. We are preparing for that.”

Sega Sammy is one of Japan’s largest manufacturers of arcade-like pachinko machines. The Sega division is best known in the US for its gaming consoles and hit “Sonic the Hedgehog” series.

Who, What, Where

The National Diet, which is similar in function to the US Congress, must iron out a multitude of details that includes everything from the number of licenses up for grabs, to how much tax the winning bidders will pay to their host city and the federal government.

Where the integrated resorts will be places is another crucial component.  The frontrunners are reportedly Osaka, a large port city, and Yokohama, the second most populated urban expanse in Japan.

Details on what it might take for foreign companies to woo Japan’s to-be-formed gaming authority that will award the licenses remains unknown. But one presumption that will likely help is the notion of partnering with established domestic companies.

That’s some overseas groups, Hard Rock International, for example, say they won’t mandate a majority ownership. “We are in 74 countries. We are a company that has partnerships. Our preference is always to have a local partner,” Hard Rock’s Japan division CEO Edward Tracy Allen told GGRAsia this week.

Locals Hesitant

Unfortunately for the global casino operators looking for a strong ally on the ground, options are few and far between. Gambling is largely outlawed in Japan, the main exception being the widespread pachinko halls that accept small wagers.

Japanese gaming companies are hesitant to express support for the Diet’s casino bill due to the public’s large opposition. On concerns that commercial casinos will pose harm to citizens, a recent poll found that just 12 percent of the population endorses the market’s liberalization.

Regardless, Japan’s forthcoming casino licenses remain the golden ticket of the worldwide gambling industry in 2017. Partnering with Sega Sammy might give Nevada-based companies their best chance. So who will it be? Sega isn’t saying.

“I cannot tell you,” Satomi stated. “But we have been discussing with operators around the world.”