Japan casino bill passage not imminent, lawmakers confirm

    The passage of a bill that will set the stage to legalize casinos in Japan seems nearly impossible by the end of the current parliamentary session on June 22, as discussion of the legislation on Friday has been bumped by another item relating to the country’s Atomic Energy Commission, the Wall Street Journal cited lawmakers as saying.
    Friday was the last realistic date for the bill to be discussed if it were to be passed by the current deadline, as legislation needs to go to Japan’s Upper House 20 days before the session ends to allow for approval.
    While some industry experts are optimistic the bill will be pushed through in the Fall session, others believe the wait may be longer still.
    Delays in the passage of the legislation mean it’s highly unlikely that any of the multi-billion dollar resorts plans being drawn up by the world’s biggest casino operators will be ready to open their doors in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Many had been hoping to capitalize on the additional tourist inflows expected into the country.
    Both MGM Resorts and Las Vegas Sands have said they are prepared to spend as much at $10 billion to gain a foothold in what is expected to become the world’s second-biggest casino market, with the consensus forecast for annual revenue running at $20 billion.
    Genting Singapore, Melco Crown, Wynn Resorts, Boyd Gaming and Bloomberry Resorts have also all expressed an interest in the market, drawn by the potential of a gaming mad, affluent local population. Unlike in many jurisdictions considering opening their doors to casinos, Japan is thought to be unlikely to bar locals.
    Add to that proximity to China, especially the northern section of the country, and the potential is seen as huge. CLSA has estimated Japan may even generate revenue as high as $40 billion.
    Still, the timing is now unclear and the regulatory process is cumbersome. Japan needs to first pass the current bill which calls on the government to create an enabling framework, while a second bill is necessary to outline the details of the law. Local governments will then need to put forward their chosen proposals to the state, which will make a final decision on the bidder and location.