Japanese Legislators Reconvene to Discuss Casino Bill
Today marks the convocation of the special autumn session of Japan’s parliament (the National Diet). During the previous session which ended last June, a bill was introduced by a cross-party coalition of lawmakers representing both the ruling LDP party as well as opposition parties. Passing this preliminary “enabling bill” is seen as the first step toward the establishment of casinos in Japan, and it would lay the legislative groundwork on a conceptual level. Once passed, a second piece of legislation would be required, outlining the specifics of casino implementation, administration, and regulation in Japan.
Toru Mihara, an Osaka professor who advises pro-casino lawmakers, has said that he sees the bill’s passage as likely occurring by November, barring the introduction of pressing legislation that would distract the Diet from the casino bill. Similarly rosy forecasts of swift action by the Diet have been made many times in the past. The clock is ticking as Tokyo commences preparation for hosting the 2020 Olympics, and many are beginning to wonder whether or not Japanese IRs will be able to open in time for this major international tourism event.
How Big is the Market?
The consensus among bullish analysts has been that with one integrated resort (IR) in Tokyo and another in Osaka, plus up to ten smaller casinos in other Japanese localities, gross gaming revenue could reach $40 billion annually. This would place the Japanese gaming market far ahead of both Las Vegas and Singapore, and it would approach the size of the world’s largest gaming market, Macau, where revenue was $45.2 billion in 2013. By contrast, a Morgan Stanley report published earlier this year has suggested that Japan might not be as profitable a market as many are expecting. Their analysis has projected Japanese annual GGR to be about one half of the consensus’ estimate, amounting to $21-$22 billion.
Locations Under Consideration for a Japanese IR
More than 20 locations in Japan are vying to be chosen as locations for IRs. There are campaigns underway to attract casinos as far north as Hokkaido and Akita, further south in Tokyo’s neighboring Chiba and Kanagawa Prefectures, in Osaka to the west, as far south as Nagasaki and Miyazaki, and in the southernmost islands of Okinawa. One of the frontrunner sites for an IR is a partially man-made island in Osaka Bay known as Yumeshima. As of this month, seven developers have held meetings with the Osaka prefectural governor, who is recommending this location. Although Tokyo’s governor has been notably lukewarm to the idea of an IR in the nation’s capital, many see Tokyo’s waterfront location of Odaiba as a leading candidate for a casino resort. Another Tokyo location under consideration by developers is the current site of the Tsukiji Fish Market which will relocate nearby in 2016. Tsukiji is one of the largest contiguous parcels of land ever offered for redevelopment in Tokyo, and its prime location is ideal for an IR.
Contenders for Japanese Licenses
MGM Resorts International has already unveiled images of its plans for an MGM Osaka casino resort, and it has been rumored that they have also been scouting out the Tsukiji site in Tokyo. MGM has held discussions with Universal Studios Japan, and they have pledged to invest $5-$10 billion in the Japanese market, with a 51% requirement for their stake in a Japanese partnership. Las Vegas Sands is said to be eyeing a Tokyo location, and Sheldon Adelson has stated that he would spend “whatever it takes” to gain a foothold in Japan, citing numbers between $7 and $10 billion. Melco Crown is reported to have met with Osaka authorities this past July, while Wynn Resorts is thought to be exploring sites in Tokyo. Caesars Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman has stated that his company would have no problem financing an investment in Japan of at least $5 billion. Another potential foreign IR developer is Genting of Malaysia, while domestic bidders for licenses include pachinko companies Dynam and Konami, Keikyu Railways, and a joint venture of Fuji Media, Kajima Construction, and Mitsui Real Estate.
Anthony Mumphrey III
Principal, TMG Consulting
(504) 569-9239, Ex.22
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