International edition
June 19, 2021

The country is widely viewed as one of the last great untapped markets

Japan steps up casino plans

(Japan).- With one eye on the 2020 Olympics, Japanese lawmakers are accelerating the casinos project which has been in various stages of discussion over the past few years. The legalisation of casinos in Japan has now reached the stage where an outline law will see casinos appear not just in cities but in regional areas too.

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fter more than a decade of lobbying by lawmakers, a bill to legalise casino gambling is seen as having a decent chance of passing next year with the business-friendly Liberal Democratic Party in power and after Tokyo won the bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2020.

Japan is widely viewed as one of the last great untapped markets due to its wealthy population and proximity to China. Union Gaming, a U.S.-based investment bank, has predicted Japanese gaming revenues could top us$ 15 billion a year, making it the second-largest market in the world after Macau.

International casino operators like MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands, Melco Crown Entertainment and Wynn Resorts have also shown interest in developing casino resorts in Japan. 

The latest version of the proposals from the special all-party casino committee of the Diet (the Japanese Parliament) on the subject suggests strong legislation to ensure that illegal operations do not occur.

Inspectors would be in place to monitor the business, under the proposals which are likely to reach Parliament before the end of the year. International players, including Wynn Resorts , MGM, Las Vegas Sands and Caesars Entertainment, already have plans in place to build major resort casinos. Other elements of security in the proposals include the necessity for both operators and suppliers to have permits.

It is likely that a limited number of locations would be initially permitted, with the density increasing gradually. Tokyo and Osaka are obvious starting points and the big operators would certainly team up with major Japanese companies as partners, including Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Itochu and inevitably companies already in the business such as Sega Sammy Holdings and Konami.

Japan's biggest property developer Mitsui Fudosan has joined forces with media firm Fuji Media Holdings and builder Kajima to develop a proposed casino and resort complex in Tokyo. The three firms want to build a complex in Odaiba, near Tokyo Bay, that would include a hotel, conference center and a casino, Mitsui Fudosan said at an earnings briefing this week.

"Our role in this project would be to get involved and make a contribution to help Tokyo become a more attractive city," said Masatoshi Satou, Mitsui Fudosan's executive managing officer. "But it is totally up to what happens to the bill and the direction of the government."

Mitsui Fudosan, Fuji Media and Kajima all declined to give further details on the project beyond saying that they had submitted a proposal to the government to develop a casino resort as part of a special economic zone.

That plan hinges on the passage of the law and Tokyo being chosen to host a casino. Japan's biggest city is seen as a prime location for an integrated resort, but it is likely to face competition from more than a dozen other locations across the country.

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