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Japan Moves Closer to Legalised Casinos with 2020 Olympics Bid

Mon, Sep 16, 9:21pm by Kevin Pitstock

The Olympics Are Coming!In the aftermath of their winning bid to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japanese lawmakers are considering a ground-breaking new set of laws to make casino gambling legal. With an unprecedented wave of tourists set to enter Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, many in Japan would like to have world-class casinos ready to take their gaming revenues.

Legalised casino gambling has been picking up steam in Japan for some time anyway. In fact, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won his election earlier this year, it was predicted his Liberal Democratic Party would have the votes to pass new gaming laws. After it was announced Japan would host the Olympics earlier this week, speculation again rose.

Citigroup Inc. predicts a vote on gambling reforms in the near future. An analysis paper by Citigroup said, “Key political figures have publicly backed the initiative, and the ruling party currently has the votes to pass it. The casino gambling bill–the first step–is likely to be presented in 4Q.”

The Japanese Love Gambling

The Japanese people love gambling. No country in the world has more gaming machines than Japan, though their machines are found in the pachinko parlours. Concerns about immorality and fear of Yakuza penetration in the gaming industry caused politicians long ago to ban pachinko games for real money. Prizes are given out, though a typically elaborate Japanese expedient was found for getting around the restrictive laws.

Pachinko parlours offer all kinds of prizes for winners, who must collect balls during the game. These balls are exchanged for “special prizes” which can then be sold at an outside establishment nearby. The special prizes include anything from a sliver of gold to a plastic toy, but are found amongst an assortment of lesser prizes. Most gamblers select as many special prizes as their ball allotment allows. With the change they have left over, they might buy cigarette lighters or fountain pens.

Casino Companies Interested

Experts say at least four different gaming groups have expressed interest in developing integrated casino-resorts in Japan, if new laws are put in place. Las Vegas Sands Corp, which owns the biggest casino in Macau, is said to have an interest in building in Japan. 90% of The Sands’ revenue comes from the Asian market these days.

Crown Melco also appears to have an interest in such a development. Crown Melco is a partnership between James Packer’s Crown Limited Group (which owns 10%) and Lawrence Ho’s Melco Holdings. James Packer is on record saying he hopes to be building a casino in Japan in 2017 or so, when several other developments are finished.

Potential Windfall in Japan

Whichever gaming interests end up building in Japan will be tapping a lucrative source of revenue. It is estimated Japan’s casino industry might produce $15 billion a year. Japan has an immense economy and a massive tourist trade, so the two combined should produce some of the wealthiest casino properties in the world.

Expect the looming Olympic Games to give a spur to the legislative agenda on casinos. If these gaming venues are going to be built, it only makes sense they should be built and operative by 2020. The Olympics should bring a tidal wave of tourists. Many of these would seek out gaming venues if they were built.

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