Japan legislators to lobby for lifting of casino ban

Tokyo's selection to host 2020 Olympics Games spurs investment plans by foreign gaming firms

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 3:51am

Japanese legislators plan to present a bill to legalise casinos as early as this year as companies including Wynn Resorts mull billions of dollars in investment in what could be the world's second-biggest gaming market.

Hiroyuki Hosoda, the chairman of a group of lawmakers promoting casino development in Japan, said on Wednesday the group aimed to submit a casino bill to the next parliamentary session, expected to start next month, with a view to passing the bill in the following session next year.

Wynn Resorts said on Wednesday it would consider investing more than US$4 billion in Japanese casino resorts, while MGM Resorts International president Bill Hornbuckle said the firm would spend "several" billion dollars.

International casino companies have begun studying expansion opportunities in Japan as Tokyo's selection to host the 2020 Olympics Games boosts confidence that the law legalising gambling resorts will pass.

Casinos are currently banned in Japan and Union Gaming Group estimates the country could turn into the world's second-largest gambling hub behind Macau with US$10 billion in revenue a year if it opens up.

"A lot of Japanese gamble at casinos overseas, so the ban doesn't make sense any more," Hosoda said. "It just means tax revenues go elsewhere."

It could take five years for the first casino to be operational after the law was passed, he said.

Wynn Resorts' investment in a Japanese casino would be "way bigger" than the US$4 billion it was spending on its current project in Macau's Cotai area, Wynn Resorts Development president Gamal Aziz said.

Both Wynn and MGM said they planned to team with Japanese consortiums to develop casino projects.

Las Vegas Sands was also "open-minded" about having local partners, said George Tanasijevich, its managing director of global development.

The three companies are all interested in developing resorts in Tokyo and Osaka.

Among the potential local partners are trading companies such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi and Itochu and gaming machine makers Sega Sammy and Konami. The trading companies have experience in project finance and real estate development connections, while the game makers have helped develop casino projects and technology outside Japan.