In this regular feature in IAG to celebrate 18 years covering the Asian gaming and leisure industry, we look back at our cover story from exactly 10 years ago, “Backwards into the future”, to rediscover what was making the news in January 2013!
The Japanese term “nemawashi” means “going around the roots”, as in preparing a tree for transplanting. As Inside Asian Gaming explained in the cover story of our 2013 issue, the equivalent in English would be along the lines of “laying the groundwork” or “building consensus” – describing a largely informal but critical element of the process of legislating major social or economic change in Japan.
“Usually conducted behind the scenes, ‘nemawashi’ can be a long and painstaking affair, as anyone even remotely familiar with the inherent conservatism of Japanese culture and its famously fractious politics might expect, and as the casino camp, which has numbered some fairly powerful individuals over the years, knows only too well.”
At the time of IAG’s cover story, titled “Backwards into the future”, the issue at hand was whether or not Japan could ever reach a political consensus on casino gaming. As we wrote, “Casino advocates in Japan have been waiting 10 years for a law to bring resort-scale gambling to the world’s third-largest economy,” ever since a 2002 study found that a casino with a hotel and other attractions capable of attracting 2.25 million people a year would generate US$642.6 million and employ 4,000 people.
But any prospects of turning potential into reality had been made particularly difficult given the political turmoil Japan had endured in the decade since then. Eight prime ministers had come and gone, making passing such significant legislation nigh on impossible, despite annual predictions that a casino bill was about to be introduced to parliament.
As we now know, it took until 2016 for Japan to pass its IR Promotion Bill and another two years to pass the accompanying IR Implementation Act. Yet, more than four years later, what promised to become one of the world’s largest IR markets is teetering on the precipice with only Osaka and Nagasaki in the running to develop Japan’s first IRs.
And while Macau was quick to complete its re-tender of gaming concessions this year, Japan’s central government is yet to make any announcement on the bids submitted by Osaka and Nagasaki back in April, with no sign of when such an announcement may finally come.