Enabling legislation in Japan for casino resorts is likely to be “off the table for 2015”, said a note from Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd on Monday. The note was issued after media outlets in Japan reported the government there has shelved plans for an extraordinary session of parliament. It would reportedly be the first time in a decade that the country’s two-chamber Diet (pictured) eschewed a second sitting for the year. Such sessions typically start in the autumn.
“The legislative timeline… now moves to 2016 for the first bill and 2017 for the second bill,” said Union Gaming analyst Grant Govertsen, referring to an initial measure to legalise casinos and a second one likely to deal with the administrative details, including the important issue of the location or locations for such developments.
“In our opinion, 2022 is now the earliest a large-scale IR [integrated resort] is likely to be opened in Japan,” said Mr Govertsen.
Union Gaming added however that the number of Chinese visitors to Japan continued to “skyrocket”, with “year to date visitation up a staggering 117 percent to 3.3 million persons through August; this is on top of a +83 percent [year-on-year] comp[arison] in 2014.”
Mr Govertsen described Japan and South Korea as “aspirational countries” for many Chinese travellers, and suggested their growing popularity with that audience might represent some lost customers for Macau.
“A theme that we’ve been pointing out is that high value mass market Chinese customers are eschewing Macau and instead heading to new-to-them destinations – namely places like Japan and Korea. Based on tourism data, the same mass market customer that might not be coming to Macau as frequently as in the past is still spending lots of money on entertainment and leisure pursuits in the form of international travel,” said Union Gaming.
The institution additionally suggested that the six Macau gaming concessionaires were unlikely to take part in a request for proposal (RFP) process in South Korea that could see two new large-scale, foreigners-only, casino properties opening there.
“It is our understanding that the Macau-based operators are not participating in this RFP process as they generally have doubts on being able to achieve suitable returns given that the IR licences still preclude locals gambling,” stated Mr Govertsen.
South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in August published its updated strategy to develop new so-called integrated resorts in the country, incorporating casinos that would be open to foreigners-only.
The RFP phase opened in late August and runs until November 27, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism confirmed on its website.
The number of casinos in Asia is expected to increase by 30 to 230 over the next five years but the region “can comfortably absorb this capacity increase,” brokerage CLSA Ltd suggested in a report published in mid-September.
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Vitaly Umansky, Louis Li and Shirley Yang
Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein