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James Packer Could Target Japan as Next Major Casino Development

Sun, Aug 18, 12:51am by Kevin Pitstock

James PackerJames Packer says Japan could be the next target for the expansion of his casino empire. While building an integrated casino in Japan is years away, the possibility thrills Australia’s most aggressive casino builder.

“If Japan comes on it will be the second-biggest gaming market in the world. It has 100 million people who are all mad gamblers” Packer went on to describe the current focus of Japanese gaming enthusiasm: pachinko parlours and horse racing. He then compared the seemingly far-fetched idea of a Japanese casino industry to that of another Asian tiger: Singapore.

Describing a historical antipathy towards large-scale gambling venues, Crown Limited’s chairman said, “Japan is looking at the Singapore story. Done wrong, gambling can be parasitic. But done right, it can be hugely additive.”

Melco Crown and Japanese Casinos

Casino gambling is still illegal in Japan, yet conventional thinking says the July 2013 electoral victory of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party opens the door for legalisation. If so, then James Packer and his business partners are likely to be among the first to apply for a license to build an integrated casino.

“I hope Japan comes up,” said the son of the late media mogul, Kerry Packer. Later elaborating on his enthusiasm for Japan, Mr Packer explained, “Japan is two to three years before it all gets serious, which is perfect for us because we will have Macau Studio City open and The Philippines open,” Mr Packer said.

The mention of the land developments in the Philippines and Macau are in reference to Melco Crown. James Packer owns a 33% share of Melco Crown, a business partnership with Chinese billionaire, Laurence Ho. Through that partnership, the two own one Macau casino are developing two others, Studio City and City of Dreams. They are also working with Henry Sy, a Filipino businessman, to build a resort in the Philippines.

Planning a Few Moves Ahead

These building projects are expected to take years and billions of dollars of investment capital. By the time a prospective Japanese casino would be feasible, it’s expected that most if not all of these developments would be finished. By that time, revenues are likely to flow into Crown Melco, giving them the funds they needed for ambitious new projects.

Discussing the prospects, Crown Group’s chairman said, “Crown Perth will be finished and Crown Sydney should be well under way, approvals pending.” Crown Sydney won’t open until 2019, when the monopoly for Star Sydney Casino expires.

Melco Crown’s Stocks Soar

No wonder shares of Melco Crown stock have rocketed in the past year. In a few shorts years, it appears that Crown Group and its financial allies could step to the next level in term of global expansion.

Since growth in the Asian market is expected to far exceed than in any other region of the Earth in the next 10 to 20 years, being on the most aggressive developers in that region should pay huge dividends. With the opportunity to expand in the second-largest gaming market in the world, the Melco Crown Group could become one of the largest casino gaming companies in the world.

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