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Casino operators readying to move in as ban is lifted on Japan

Tags: James Murren, Japan, Shinzo Abe.
Posted on 19 December 2016 by "T".

The parliament of Japan has now cleared the way for global casinos to operate in the country after the approval of ‘integrated resorts' law, despite the mixed feelings and warnings from the Japanese public over the involvement of organized crime and gambling addiction.

In the early hours of Thursday last week (December 15), Japan's parliament approved the legislation permitting the construction of ‘integrated resorts' which will include casinos alongside hotels and entertainment-related facilities. Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, has long advocated the move to lift the casino ban, emphasizing that it will significantly boost the economy with the arrival of wealthy tourists from mainland China (where gambling is banned) as well as other neighboring countries in Asia.

The Japanese parliament passed the bill despite the warnings from mental health experts and opposition politicians that casino operation could likely lead to a rise in gambling addiction and become a more fertile ground for money laundering activities by the yakuza, the organized crime syndicates in Japan.

Osaka, Yokohama and Tokyo are a few of the cities pushing to be chosen as casino areas, while international operators have spent years lobbying Japanese authorities to give them access to a market that could produce huge profits.

According to the Japan Productivity Center, despite its ban on casinos before, Japan is a nation of keen gamblers: speedboat, horse, and keirin bicycle racing collectively bring in the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars each year. A pinball-like game called Pachinko makes up a legal gray area and has actually been in decline in recent years but still garnered over US$200 billion in revenue last year.

Chairman of Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International James Murren said, "The reason why everyone's spending the time on this is that the potential is absolutely enormous. Japan would dwarf the Singapore market in size and could be extraordinarily lucrative for all the investors, real estate and operators alike."

A study in 2014 by the Japan health ministry found that almost 5 million Japanese were addicted to gambling, compared with just 1% in many other countries. This high rate of addiction is mainly because of pachinko, in which players get around gaming laws by means of exchanging their prizes for cash off the premises of the pachinko parlors.

Shinzo Abe dismissed concerns that casinos might become magnets for anti-social behavior, insisting that they would form only a small part of resorts that would also include shops, conference facilities, entertainment venues and restaurants. He noted that the number of foreign tourists have doubled from 8 million in 2012 to 20 million in 2016.

He said, "It's not like entire cities will be taken over by casinos. These facilities will attract investment and do a lot to help create jobs. These integrated resorts will be able to be enjoyed by families, not just for business activities or conferences."

Analysts believe that the move could possibly make Japan the second-largest gambling market in the world, right after Macau.

According to the Daiwa Research Institute, just three casinos can potentially generate almost US$10 billion in net profit annually - equal to 0.2% of Japan's GDP. According to the investment bank CLSA, they estimate that the Japanese market could bring in US$30 billion annually in gross revenues.

Billionaire casino operators such as Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts and Sheldon Adelson, head of Las Vegas Sands, have visited or deployed representatives to Japan to lobby for legalization.

Crown Resorts owned by James Packer, despite them withdrawing from Macau and focusing more on his casino interests in Australia, they are reported to be one of the many casino operators that foresee a huge potential in setting up a presence in Japan, regarded as the industry's ‘final frontier'.

However, James Packer and other international operators will have to first convince Japanese authorities that they are capable of promoting responsible gambling and make sure that their casinos are integrated with the resorts' hospitality business. This means if they would like to have a presence in Japan, they will have to simply play by Japanese rules.

Despite all these, the majority of the Japanese public remains opposed to the legalization of casinos. A recent survey made by public broadcaster NHK showed that 44% of citizens do not want casinos, while only 12% supported them.

A professor of economics and gambling business expert at Shizuoka University Yoichi Torihata said, "The estimated economic impact is too optimistic, while the negative impact - including gambling addiction - has been understated."



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10 comments on "Casino operators readying to move in as ban is lifted on Japan"

 pochui19/12/2016 18:20:59 GMT
well all this banning thing is quite funny really- casinos operate in a country and all are happy, boom one day all of them are banned and move out to different places, then after some time passed politicians lift the ban and casinos come back... left right, left right and so on.
 Mober19/12/2016 18:29:10 GMT
Is there really a country that cares about gambling addiction? I dont think so.
And the most recent and obvious example, is right here.

When they formed the new law, for banning all the internet sites, that didnt have license,
one of their excuses was to protect us from gambling addiction.
Well, guess what they are getting ready to launch now.
Slot machines, in all the physical betting shops, all over the country.
Thats how much they care.....
 pochui19/12/2016 18:32:42 GMT
why the hell should politicians care about gambling addictions? dudes lose their money, they are hopeless degens, if gambling was completely shut they would still fall for some traps- alcohol, drugs, prostitutes, lottery, con artists, etc.- thing is there is a percentage of dudes who are destined for failure, no need to try stopping them, just gonna make the whole process longer... but same result.
 Ingrind3319/12/2016 19:10:43 GMT
Japan is one of few countries that are independent. Japan is a strong country because it doesn't depend much on the new world. Why are they so strong? that is because they have discipline, a strong feeling for responsibility + having cultural values that are very strong embedded. They are doing good because they have a traditional culture mixed with new ideas and not some borrowed* shit mentality culture from "the west" (*I'm not talking about ripping off styles from cartoons and design of technology btw, because they are good in that).

Little bit off topic, but who cares. Thumbs Up
 kent197420/12/2016 00:40:32 GMT
The girl with the nuts, you are always in the subject
 TheMachineQC20/12/2016 05:49:58 GMT
Ah, I didn't even know that casinos were illegal in Japan. I think the casinos should be more recreational and should make less profits in general... They can help the economy in some ways but the typical casinos are really just taking poor people's money doing nothing. House edges on slots and stuff are huuuuuge.

Anyways, good for them, more freedom I guess!
 Joebottrop20/12/2016 06:27:47 GMT
i thought they had no gambling laws, i really thought every town in japan is like las vegas, but only without the blinking lights. freedom is to choose what to play,
 doubletop77720/12/2016 09:07:08 GMT
When this does get the go ahead, it will be massive. The amounts of money being gambled on the horses' is astronomical in Japan so, in my opinion, it will probably be the same in the casinos'
 dule-vu20/12/2016 12:15:12 GMT
as I see how lots of countries behave with betting,gambling,poker and other sites,we can say that they are more interested to forbid that stuff,then to fight against drugs!like the gambling is biggest problem in world!let people to do with own money whatever they want,not to block everything!
 Tony_MON7ANA20/12/2016 18:40:11 GMT
Japan has been debating whether to legalize casinos since the late-1990s. Japan's parliament finally passed a casino bill and a multiphase legislation process has just begun. Several industry analysts say casinos will not be in operation until the mid-2020s at the earliest. It has been argued that the hefty cover charge (JPY10,000+ per entry) should be levied upon local residents as a disincentive for them to visit casinos.

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