Japan will only allow advertising for its as-yet unbuilt casinos to be shown at international arrival areas of the country’s international airports or seaports. That is according to an order adopted following a meeting of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet on Tuesday morning, as reported by the Jiji Press news agency.
The ruling was part of a raft of ordinances passed by cabinet on Tuesday that starts to put more regulatory flesh on the bones of the framework Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Act passed last year, part of a two-statute process for legalisation of casino gaming in that country.
A maximum of three resorts – known in Japan as integrated resorts or “IRs” – will be permitted under the first phase of market liberalisation. It is unclear from Tuesday’s media reports whether the ban on casino advertising outside airports and seaports would also cover non-gaming elements of Japan’s casino resorts.
In Macau, advertising of casino gambling is forbidden. But casino operators either within Macau or from jurisdictions outside, can promote non-gaming elements of their respective resorts. A similar policy is followed in mainland China.
An important element in Tuesday’s discussions referred to the request for proposal phase of casino liberalisation, where local governments are asked to solicit bids from would-be commercial partners. Such a phase could be in November or December this year, according to information gathered by GGRAsia’s Japan correspondent.
Jim Murren, chairman and chief executive of United States-based casino operator MGM Resorts International, which is pitching to be a commercial partner for a casino resort in Osaka, said in Tokyo last week he expected the city would make a decision on a commercial partner by this time next year. MGM Resorts runs casinos in Macau via its MGM China Holdings Ltd unit.
Hotel space requirement
Separately the Kyodo News agency reported on Tuesday that Japan’s national government had also that day formally approved previously-flagged requirements that the coming casino venues should provide hotels far larger than currently exist in that country.
Resort plans would need to include provision for an aggregate of at least 100,000 square metres (1.08 million sq feet) of hotel accommodation at each IR complex, reported Kyodo on Tuesday, citing the cabinet’s ratification of the condition.
The same news outlet had reported in February that – based on the average size for a Japanese hotel room, which it said was 50 sq metres – the recommendation would mean 2,000 hotel rooms for an IR, “far exceeding” the 1,500 hotel rooms found currently at one of the country’s largest hotels.
Kyodo’s Tuesday report seemed to indicate there might have been some relaxation – following Tuesday’s cabinet meeting – of previously-stated aspirations for size and scale of conference and meeting facilities at casino resorts, although first reports were rather vague.
Tuesday’s cabinet meeting also confirmed the core facilities required for IRs would be: convention space; exhibition space; hotel space; that each IR should function as a representation of Japanese culture and as a Japan-wide attraction; and that each should act as a gateway for other forms of tourism in each resort’s hinterland.
According to Bloomberg News, it was also decided that casino operators would have to report to the regulatory authorities any gamblers who made transactions of JPY1 million (circa US$9,000) or more in cash. A cap of 3 percent of total gross floor area for gaming at each IR, mentioned previously in media reports of preferred national policy, was also confirmed during the cabinet meeting, according to Bloomberg.
The government ordinances confirmed on Tuesday are due to take effect on April 1, according to information gathered by GGRAsia’s correspondent in Japan.
In August there should be an announcement of national public policy for selecting the respective location of up to three resorts. In late 2019, local governments would be expected to announce the criteria they will apply for selecting commercial partners for a casino pitch to central government, with the request for proposal stage in November or December, according to existing information.
A recent Kyodo News survey, covering all of Japan’s 47 prefectures and 20 major cities eligible to host an IR, found only three areas had – as of the time of the poll – active plans to apply to the national government for permission.
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Vitaly Umansky, Eunice Lee and Kelsey Zhu
Sanford Bernstein analysts