hat is the growth potential of the Japanese market?
Japan represents a major opportunity for the international gaming industry. For many years, the industry has watched gaming developments in Japan with keen interest. Now that the recent enabling legislation has been passed, the industry is clearly focused on Japan. Initially it is likely that the gaming legislation will be crafted to allow two IR type casinos and at least one regional casino.
In the longer term there is likely to be a second wave of casino development
International operators such as Las Vegas Sands, MGM, Genting, and Wynn have spent years waiting to pitch for business in Japan. But what will happen to smaller operators who want in for a piece of the action?
Clearly the first tier casino companies named above will be interested in securing casino licenses in Japan. It is likely that major and second tier operators will be entering into strategic alliances and partnership with Japanese companies for the development and ownership of these projects. Those companies that can function in joint ventures arrangements will be the most successful. I believe that there will be opportunities for smaller operators to enter the Japanese market and compete with the big players in various locales in Japan
What are the cities expected to bid for the resorts?
Initially it is anticipated that the government is likely to approve two IR’s and one regional casino in the first wave of development. For many years government officials from Osaka have been supporting the IR concept. Metro Tokyo would be an ideal location but a former governor was opposed to an IR in metropolitan Tokyo. That may change as a new administration has taken over in Tokyo that might be more supportive of an IR in metropolitan Tokyo. Yokohama, now considered a suburb of Tokyo, has expressed interest in hosting an IR as well. Other prefectures including Hokkaido and Okinawa have considered whether to develop IR’s and future casinos development.
It will be a major political battle to see which prefecture gets the third IR project should there be a limitation in the first phase of development
How can this affect Macau's struggling industry considering the market could eventually match either Macau or Las Vegas in terms of size and numbers?
Japanese players primarily visit Korean foreigner only casinos, the Philippines and Macau. However, Japanese gamblers are not a major component of the Macau gaming industry. Macau will continue to attract mass market players primarily from China and continue to recover from the so-called “crackdown on corruption” in China.
In my view there will be some but little overlap from the existing Macau market in Japan
While Japan may attract Chinese gamblers, they may not be the same gamblers that are going to Macau at the present time.
What will be the biggest challenges facing the Japanese gambling industry from the regulatory perspective?
It will be important for Japan to put into place a clear and transparent RFP process for issuing the IR licenses. In Japan, there has been a lot of talk about the Singapore model, which included a clear and transparent RFP process, casino licensing regulations governing casino operations and strong AML procedures. The regulations should be designed for the Japanese market but Singapore may be a good regulatory structure for Japanese officials to take into consideration. AML issues will be a major issue in Japan as in all countries that have casinos.
How can Trump's historic win in the US impact the development of the Japanese gambling industry?
As a former owner of casinos in Atlantic City, President-elect Trump understands the gaming industry and has experience in the industry. While gaming issues are primarily handled by the various US states under the US Constitution, the federal government has a role in AML issues and in promoting US companies worldwide. The President elect is clearly an excellent promoter for his own business interest historically and now will be promoting US businesses to the world.