Tokyo Considering Entering Japan Casino Race, Possibly To Lure Back Las Vegas Sands

Posted on: December 23, 2020, 10:59h. 

Last updated on: August 2, 2021, 01:05h.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike says the capital and most populous prefecture of Japan is considering making a bid for an integrated resort (IR) casino.

Tokyo casino Japan integrated resort
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike might have caught the attention of Las Vegas Sands when she said this week the city could pursue a casino resort. (Image: Foreign Policy Magazine)

Japan’s central government last week confirmed its national Basic Policy that will govern the three forthcoming IRs. Lawmakers also confirmed a delay in the submission period for interested prefectures and their casino consortium partners. The government revealed that it will field proposals beginning October 1, 2021, through April 28, 2022.

Cities that have publicly expressed their intent to bid for one of the three IR gaming licenses are Osaka, Yokohama, Wakayama, and Nagasaki.

Tokyo has long been a preferred destination among casino operators, but the city has yet to formally announce its candidacy. That could soon change.

[Tokyo will] keep considering whether to apply,” Koike said this week, as reported by GGRAsia.

Tokyo is, by far, Japan’s most populated city, with more than 8.6 million residents. Yokohama is a distant second at 3.7 million people.

Sands Focus

Legalizing commercial casinos was a major goal of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His successor, PM Yoshihide Suga, is carrying on the mission.

Suga’s controlling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had the power and votes to proceed with the IR process despite widespread public opposition, as well as adversaries in the National Diet. Abe and Suga see casinos as an economic driver for Japan that will spur leisure travel to the Land of the Rising Sun.

However, Japan’s lengthy lawmaking process, which has been further slowed by COVID-19, has hampered enthusiasm among the major casino power players. Las Vegas Sands, which developed, owns and operates Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, frequently cited as the gold standard of the IR industry, announced its withdrawal from Japan consideration in May.

Koike revealing that Tokyo might enter the process could prompt Sands to reconsider. The casino empire, which along with Singapore and Las Vegas operates in Macau — the world’s richest casino hub — said in August of 2019 that Tokyo “gives us the best opportunity.”

But Sands Managing Director of Global Development George Tanasijevich added that the “possibilities are very low” that Tokyo would join the IR race. Koike, who is now independent of a political party, was a LDP lawmaker from 2003 through 2017.

International Focus

Reports have surfaced recently that Las Vegas Sands is considering selling its Sin City properties — The Venetian and Palazzo — to focus on its global business. Sands is the planet’s largest gambling operator in terms of market capitalization at $37.5 billion.

Selling its Las Vegas casinos could deliver the company an influx of $6 billion, analysts project. Sands officials have hinted that they’re more optimistic about a COVID-19 recovery in Macau and Singapore than they are in Las Vegas.

The final details of Japan’s Basic Policy have also made the emerging market a bit more attractive to casino operators. One welcomed detail is that nonresident foreigners will not be subjected to a tax on their casino winnings in Japan. That will make the three casinos very attractive to whales throughout Asia.