International edition
August 02, 2021

A decision may come this fall

Japan casino bill delayed

(Japan).- Japan’s Diet say it will be difficult to pass a legalization bill before the completion of parliament's current session on 22nd June. Masakazu Hamachi, a member of New Komeito, a junior partner in the governing coalition of Prime Ministor Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, said the bill has run up against scheduling conflicts with other government-backed bills competing for priority.

I am completely in favor of the bill,” said Mr Hamachi, who sits on the committee considering the legislation. “But it is difficult to pass because of the order of the deliberation of the bills.”

“Earlier this month, I saw a 90% chance of the bill passing during the current session,” said the Japan Restoration Party’s Sakihito Ozawa, a senior member of the LDP-led pro-casino caucus in the Diet. “But now I think it’s 50-50.”

Ozawa said that bills must be sent to the upper chamber of the parliament, the House of Councillors, at least 20 days before the session ends to ensure passage. Otherwise, the concern is that the head of the upper house cabinet committee, who opposes casinos, will let time run out.

Once the current Diet session ends, lawmakers typically return for an extraordinary session in the autumn, which means the casino bill could have an additional chance to pass before the end of the year. Mr Hamachi predicts the bill will be passed this fall.

The LDP and its coaltion partners are promoting destination-scale casinos as a tourism-boosting complement to the 2020 Summer Olympics Games in Tokyo, and estimates are that a 12-casino market could be worth as much as US$40 billion in gaming revenue a year over the next decade, a prospect that has attracted an A-list of global operators—Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Melco Crown Entertainment and MGM Resorts International among them—with plans to spend billions to be part of it.

“Time is of the essence,” MGM Resorts Chief Executive James Murren said. “There seems to be a very strong political will to move this forward, and who knows what the environment will be a year or two from now.”

Ed Bowers, MGM’s senior vice president for global gaming development, said in an interview with Reuters that if the legislation passes this year the western city of Osaka could have a casino up and running by 2019.

His comments highlight a growing view that Osaka is more likely than Tokyo to be the first big city to host a casino and is perhaps the only hope that they’ll be built in time for the Olympics. MGM has already shown Osaka officials plans for a resort with two hotel towers totaling 5,000 rooms, a 20,000-seat entertainment arena and a circular waterway inspired by the moat surrounding Osaka Castle.

The Las Vegas-based operator has also been sounding out companies such as electronics giants Panasonic and Sony about partnering on the project, although talks are at a preliminary stage, Mr Bowers and Executive Vice President Alan Feldman said.

Both MGM and Wynn Resorts also say they’ll launch initial public offerings in Japan for their ventures. An IPO “will be our goal not only to create financial flexibility, but also to give a broader group a sense of ownership,” Mr Murren said. “We would encourage Japanese ownership through a public listing.”

Wynn also is “actively looking” for equity partners, President Matt Maddox said, and Chairman Steve Wynn said recently that he has had talks with several Japanese companies about possible partnerships. “We’re absolutely interested and ready to put all our resources into Japan,” Mr Wynn said.

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