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Howard Stutz

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Japanese lawmakers table casino expansion legislation

22 Oct 2015

By Howard Stutz
Once again, casino legislation in Japan appears dead.

Union Gaming Group Managing Partner Grant Govertsen said the Japanese legislative body decided not to hold a special session this fall, meaning gaming expansion is off the table for 2015.

Japan lawmakers and the country's prime minister have considered legalizing at least two full-scale resorts in Tokyo and Osaka, with the tax proceeds being used to fund infrastructure expansions needed for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The interest attracted the major Las Vegas gaming companies, including MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts Ltd., and Las Vegas Sands Corp.

In a report to investors, Govertsen, who is based in Macau, said 2016 now represents the earliest potential for passage of the first of two gaming bills required for casino expansion. He said the earliest a full-scale resort could open in Japan, given the current timeline, would be 2022.

Govertsen said Japan's ruling declined holding a special legislative session for the first time in 10 years.

Analysts have predicted Japan could become a $5 billion to $6 billion a year gaming revenue market, rivaling the two full-scale resorts in Singapore.

Meanwhile, Chinese tourism to Japan has skyrocketed, with the year-to-date visitation totals up 117 percent to 3.3 million. Govertsen said the trend hurts the Macau casino industry.

"We continue to see mainland Chinese people flocking to aspirational countries, like Japan and Korea, that have relaxed visa requirements," Govertsen said. "This in turn represents lost customers for Macau's mass market segment."

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