IAG February 2015 - page 8

inside
asiangaming
February2015
8
A
year ago, casino legalization in Japan looked like a sure
thing. The bill to promote integrated resorts had been
introduced in December 2013 and was due for debate
during the Diet’s 2014 legislative session, backed by
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Gaming companies from
across the globewere jostling for position towin favor in thewidely
anticipated licensing contest in the world’s third-biggest economy.
For a variety of reasons, the IRbill wasn’t approved last year.
This year, Mr Abe, the country’sNo. 1 casino booster, is coming
off a landslide victory in a December snap election that increased
his coalition’s lower-housemajority in theDiet, whichbegan its new
legislative session late last month. Yet casino legalization doesn’t
look like a sure thing anymore.
Proponents in Japan still believe IRs will be legalized in time to
open by the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. However, for
the international gaming community, which has long seen Japan as
Asia’s most promising untapped market outside mainland China,
the fever has cooled-decidedly in the face of Japanese realities.
Feature
Thehighhopes for casino legalization inJapanhavedimmedconsiderably.
But thearguments for integrated resorts remainstrong
By
MuhammadCohen
Sayonara IRs?
International gaming executives who believed strongly that casino
legalization was imminent now put the chances at no better than
evenmoney.
“There was likely a confluence of factors that changed the
outlook so dramatically, including [IR legislation] getting caught
in the ‘politics as usual’ vortex, as well as a wary populace, with
pollingsuggestingmany Japaneseareopposed tocasinogaming,”
explainsUnionGaming ResearchMacauManaging Partner Grant
Govertsen.
A report last month from US parent company Union Gaming
Group forecasted IRs won’t happen by 2020 and cast doubt on the
logic of IRs todrive tourism inTokyo andOsaka, already Japan’s top
tourist destinations. “This doesn’t change our overall bullish view
that someday Japanwill, indeed, besecondonly toMacau in termsof
global gamingmarkets. It’s just that the 2020 timeline is indoubt at
thispoint,” saysMrGovertsen. “Wealso fullybelieve that bothTokyo
andOsakawill behome to IRs, regardlessof theoriginal intentionof
the tourismmandate.”
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