An extraordinary session of the National Diet, Japan’s parliament, began on 26 September, that could include two months of deliberation on the legalisation of land-based casinos in the country.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Promotional Integrated Resorts Bill was first submitted in 2013 with the backing of prime minister Shinzo Abe and his leading Liberal Democratic Party. However, opposition from the LDP’s more socially conservative coalition partner Komeito has thus far stifled the bill that would permit the construction of two integrated resorts in two major cities in time for the 2020 Olympics.
Although the future remains unclear, several large investors are adamant that the country could quickly become one of the largest casino markets in the world, with annual revenues estimated at $40bn (E36bn). Among the bigger players who have expressed an interest in making large scale investments in Japan are Genting, Wynn Resorts, MGM and Las Vegas Sands. The latter’s chair, Sheldon Adelson, recently announced that if the Diet goes ahead with liberalisation they will “certainly” be among the candidates shortlisted to build one of the two integrated resorts, while Genting Singapore has delayed raising its annual dividend in anticipation that the cash flow will be needed for investments in the new market.
While reintroducing the bill would be big step in the right direction for investors, its original timescale now looks optimistic. Even if the LDP manages to secure a majority in the Diet for the first bill, it is unlikely any casinos will be built until at least 2023 as second bill will have to follow laying out terms for regulation of the new industry. Ultimately the state’s constitution will have to be rewritten, which could take some time.
If endorsed, prospects for the market are strong. Japan saw tourism figures soar by 19 percent in 2015 to 2.3m visitors – 730,000 of whom were Chinese, considered to be big spenders. However, with more integrated resorts opening in neighbouring Macau, Korea and Vietnam, a sizeable casino market in Japan could antagonise an already evident North Asian supply problem.