Analyst highlights gloomy scenarios for Japan IRs

Grant Govertsen, an analyst for Union Gaming, has produced a second report this month highlighting gloomy scenarios for the future of IRs in Japan.

On July 5, Govertsen pointed to the decisive defeat of the ruling party in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections as a factor that it made it less likely the IR Implementation Bill would be passed this year, and perhaps not next year as well. This would result in the timeline for Japanese IRs slipping years into the future.

A new report released yesterday argues that the tight restrictions Japan will put on casinos may have the effect of driving away international operators. As one provocative headline put it: “What would happen if Japan threw an RFP and nobody came?”

Many of Govertsen’s basic concerns have also been expressed by some international operators, including his observation, “we don’t believe a single member of Japan’s assembled Expert Committee has as much as one day’s experience planning, building, or operating an IR or a casino. This is a problem as there seems to be a growing disconnect between what sounds good on paper vs. how things will actually play out in real life.”

On the other hand, there have not, to date, been public indications that any major international operator is viewing the Japanese government’s expected tight regulation of casinos as cause to retreat from making bids in Japan.

In fact, operators continue to show keen interest, with the latest evidence being Wynn Resorts’ July 14 presentation by Chief Marketing Officer Michael Weaver to the Japanese media in Osaka outlining how his company could “contribute to Japan and Osaka achieving their tourism goals.”

Govertsen also suggested that should the Japan IRs be realized, the regulatory regime would likely change for the worse over time. He ventured that “the [Japanese] government cannot be trusted to maintain a certain rulebook,” pointing to the experience of the pachinko industry.