Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will reportedly tour Singapore’s integrated resorts when he visits the island state later this month to weigh the economic benefits and the impact on society of opening up the market to casinos. Japan’s Diet is expected to approve a bill legalizing casinos later this year, though lawmakers say passage is unlikely before the end of the current session on June 22.
That may create too short a timetable for the country to open its first casino in time to capitalize on Tokyo hosting the Olympic Games in 2020. However, some casino operators have said that it’s a mistake to try to rush through projects in time to meet the 2020 deadline. “If you have something substandard it will not meet the government’s policy goals,” MGM Resorts senior vice president of global gaming development, Ed Bowers, told delegates at the G2E Asia conference in Macau last week. Japan attracted 10 million tourists in 2013 and is aiming to double that number, with a longer-term goal of having 30 million visitors by 2030. The attraction of integrated casino resorts is seen as a key component in meeting those targets.
Abe’s decision to visit Singapore’s integrated resorts also comes amid reports that Tokyo is studying Singapore’s regulatory system as a potential model for casinos at home. Abe is scheduled to visit Singapore on May 30 to deliver a key-note speech to the Asia Security Summit. In the past, he has said that casinos can help boost the economy and contribute to industrial development, but has also said they can have a negative effect on society. Japan is expected to become the world’s second-biggest casino market after Macau, with consensus estimates for gross gaming revenue of about $20 billion, though some have run as high as $40 billion. International casino operators, including MGM Resorts and Las Vegas Sands have said they are prepared to invest billions if they win a license to operate in the country. The main prizes are seen as a license in the two biggest metropolitan areas, Tokyo and Osaka.