Chances are “better than 50/50” that a bill authorizing resort-scale casino development will be passed in Japan’s Diet by early 2014 and a bill spelling out a regulatory scheme, including licensing and taxation, within a year of that.
Such was the consensus of a recent gathering in Tokyo of global casino operators and various Japanese stakeholders hosted by Las Vegas-based investment brokers Union Gaming Group, which projected that the initial bill will be introduced in the parliament by November.
“There seems to be near universal sentiment that Tokyo’s winning 2020 Summer Olympics bid has increased the likelihood of a gaming expansion bill passing,” the firm said in a recap for investors of its inaugural Japan Development Conference, held over two days last week in the capital.
As summarized by one Diet member in attendance—“Now is the moment of greatest opportunity.”
UGG believes the momentum provided by the Olympics bid will find government looking to leverage a Tokyo-area casino to drive international tourism—the official goal is 30 million visitors by 2020, up from 8 million or so currently—and “potentially offload” some of the public infrastructure costs of the games.
The firm added that it is “likely” that majorities already have been secured for an authorization bill within the legislative caucuses of the two main political parties—the governing Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan.
If this holds true, subsequent to the projected passage of an implementation bill in early 2015 a fairly open bidding process is expected to follow with the likelihood that pachinko operators and manufacturers will participate on some level. Significantly, though, UGG does not believe the legislation will require developers to have local partners, although bids that do “are likely to be viewed more favorably than bids that don’t,” the firm said.
As the process is expected to unfold: first, the central government will select the host cities; this will be followed by competitive bidding at the municipal level; finally, construction will commence around 2017, with openings in 2020 and the Tokyo winner likely to push to open sooner.
The conference drew more than 200 attendees from Japanese gaming and other industries, representatives from several prefectures and members of the Diet. Five operators gave presentations: Las Vegas Sands, Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts and Cambodia’s NagaCorp.