The race to win one of three licenses to develop and operate a Japanese integrated resort is about to begin in earnest after the Diet enacted the long-awaited IR Implementation Bill on Friday.
Passage of the IR bill comes almost 20 years since the idea of legalizing casinos in Japan was first mooted and 19 months after the IR Promotion Bill, which effectively legalized casino gaming, came into effect in December 2016. As previously reported by Inside Asian Gaming, the IR Implementation Bill was a “done deal” by the middle of last week and on Friday passed through the House of Councillors by a vote of 166 to 72.
According to gaming consultancy firm Global Market Advisors, around 20 different companies are set to bid for an IR license, with “the regulatory process to move forward over the next year leading into an RFP process for the three locations that were established as part of the legislation.”
It is anticipated that two of the licenses available will be awarded to metropolitan locations such as Osaka, Tokyo and Yokohama with the remaining license reserved for a regional destination.
Operators across the globe were quick to applaud the enactment of the IR bill, with MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren commenting, “The process has been very deliberate and transparent. We appreciate the high level of social responsibility reflected throughout the process by creating one of the most comprehensive bills of its kind anywhere in the world.
“MGM is proud to have provided academic research and economic analysis as well as facilitating numerous study sessions with experts from around the world. Today’s passage allows us to advance our relationships with key stakeholders and together create a coalition of Japanese business partners who will collectively define a vision for a uniquely Japanese, world-class integrated resort.”
Marina Bay Sands CEO and President George Tanasijevich, who is also Las Vegas Sands Managing Director for Global Development, said the IR bill would allow Japan to create offerings to “attract more visitors from overseas, offer many opportunities for the local people and lead to sustainable development of the Japanese economy, culture and society.
“Given the opportunity to participate, Las Vegas Sands is confident that we can make a significant contribution together with the Japanese people.”
The IR Implementation Bill sets out the terms for Japan’s integrated resorts, including the provision for three locations, casinos to be limited to no more than 3% of an IR’s total floor area and a ¥6,000 entry fee for locals, who will also have visitation capped at three times a week or 10 times a month.
In a Friday note, Morgan Stanley analysts predicted that passage of the IR bill could see Macau face competition from Japan for Chinese gamblers.
“On the other hand, global gaming companies (and Japanese partners) could see upside to their valuation in anticipation of high ROIC similar to what we have seen in case of Macau, Singapore and Philippines,” they said.
It is expected that the first Japanese IRs will open around 2025.