IAG JANUARY 2017 WEB - page 7

January2017
inside
asiangaming
7
Cover Story
W
hen Genting Group Executive Chairman and
CEOLimKokThaysaid inNovember thatGenting
Singapore was pulling out of its US$1.8 billion
integrated resort project in Jeju, South Korea,
to focus on casino development in Japan, many
snickered. Over the past 18months, Korea has gone fromhot tonot
in gaming circles as it became clear the new IRs would not be open
to locals, so it wasn’t surprising that Genting would abandon an
expensiveproject with limitedprospective returns.
But Japan? That was the longest running false alarm in Asian
gaming, with no real progress made along the way despite more
than a decade of effort. Surely Lim Kok Thay could’ve produced
a better excuse! Then, in the early hours of 15 December, Japan’s
Diet approved the Integrated Resort Promotion Bill, the first step
toward creating what would likely be the world’s most expensive
IRs and further evidence that it is unwise to doubtMr Lim, whose
Genting Singapore ranks among the hot favorites to gain a
license, when and, yes, still if, Japan casinos become reality. The
lone certainty so far is that casino legalization in Japan has never
been closer.
Optimism blossomed when Liberal Democratic Party Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe, a casino supporter, rertuned to power in
December2012.Hedidsowitha lowerhousemajoritybut acoalition
“Therehasbeena shift in focus from
IRdevelopment for thepurpose
of the2020Olympics toa focuson
attracting foreign tourists toJapan
onanenduringbasis into the future.”
Japan’sPrimeMinister
ShinzoAbe
partner, Komeito, that strongly opposes casinos. Integrated resort
development was subsequently proposed as a perfect complement
to the 2020 TokyoOlympics, leading to the late 2013 introdution of
casino legislation that went nowhere.
Since then, Greenberg Traurig Tokyo Associate Ryo Takizawa
says, “There has been a shift in focus from IR development for
the purpose of the 2020 Olympics to a focus on attracting foreign
tourists to Japanon an enduringbasis into the future.
“It is generally understood that now is the proper timing to
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