International edition
September 27, 2020

Japan is widely considered one of Asia's largest markets after Macau

Melco bets on Japanese culture as casino debate heats up

(Japan).- Casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment has announced it will donate 10 million towards cultural projects in Japan, a sign of its commitment to the country as lawmakers consider casino gambling regulation. "Melco really wants to do something to help contribute to cultural development in Japan. There is no defined set period for the commitment," company spokeswoman Maggie Ma said.

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elco, controlled by Ho and Australian billionaire James Packer, said in a press release that it would contribute 1 billion yen, or roughly US$10 million, on projects in coordination with the university. The projects include research on urban development and a "Kimono Culture" event early next year.

A group of lawmakers earlier this month submitted a bill towards legalising casino gambling in Japan. They hope to pass the bill in the first half of next year, and enact concrete regulations by 2015.

The bill is backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and is thought to have a decent chance of passing. Lawmakers hope the first casino resort could open in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Melco is one of several global casino operators including Las Vegas Sands lobbying for a position in the Japanese market, seen as the next big Asian gaming opportunity after the spectacular rise of Macau.

The Hong Kong-listed, Macau-based casino operator made no mention of its commercial interest in Japan when it announced its commitment to Tokyo's University of the Arts, although its desire to participate in any liberalisation of the Japanese industry is well known.

Japan is widely considered one of Asia's largest untapped markets after Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub. Industry analysts predict Japan could rake in us$15 billion in annual gaming revenues, making it the second-biggest market globally.

Melco Crown is the fourth biggest casino operator by market capitalisation in Macau, which overtook Las Vegas as the global gaming capital in 2006. The southern Chinese territory is on course to generate over US$43 billion in gaming revenue this year.

Other global operators eyeing the Japanese market include MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts

Casino operators often make donations to universities and community projects to build goodwill for an industry that can be politically controversial. A us$135 million donation by Wynn to a foundation affiliated with a university in Macau drew scrutiny from U.S. authorities, although the company was cleared of any wrongdoing. 

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