As Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) claimed overwhelming victory in Sunday’s general election, giving succour to those who hope for a casino industry in that country soon, Australian businessman James Packer appeared in an interview to rule out the idea of his casino firm Crown Resorts Ltd bidding for a Japan licence.
Final results from Japan’s snap poll called late last month by incumbent prime minister, Shinzo Abe (pictured), may not be known until later. But according to the Nikkei Asian Review, exit polls late on Sunday indicated Mr Abe and a supporting bloc of smaller parties had regained a two-thirds majority in the lower house of the Japanese parliament with around 312 seats, with opposition parties on 126 and four seats still to be called.
The news outlet said it estimated the LDP had won at least 283 seats in its own right, allowing it to control every standing committee in the lower house.
Multiple media outlets cited Mr Abe’s immediate political aims as being, respectively, the reform of Japan’s pacifist post-war constitution, further economic stimulus measures, and a hawkish approach to North Korea, which has recently fired several missiles over Japanese territory.
The legalisation of casinos in Japan may not be as high a priority for Mr Abe, in likelihood being a sub-topic of general economic stimulus. But Japanese media had reported the policy had been included in his election campaign pledges. It is under his watch that this cross-party policy has progressed in parliament, with the first stage of the process – legalising casino resorts in principle – coming into effect in December.
Packer on Japan
Meanwhile in an interview carried on Monday by The Australian newspaper, ahead of Crown Resorts’ annual general meeting scheduled for Thursday, Mr Packer stepped back from the idea of a bid for a Japan licence.
In April the Australian Financial Review had reported – citing a “Japanese business figure” that it didn’t identify – that Crown Resorts was an ardent suitor for a Japan permit.
But Mr Packer was quoted on Monday by The Australian as saying: “People talk to me about Japan. I don’t believe it is realistic for us to win a licence in Japan.’’
Asked by the news outlet if that meant a bid for Crown Resorts casino in Japan was being ruled out, Mr Packer replied: “It is off my table. But I am only one director and I haven’t had the conversation with the board.’’
He added: “I am not saying ‘no’ forever, but what I am saying ‘no’ to is writing a AUD500-million [US$390 million] or AUD1-billion cheque to go into Japan next week.” That was understood to be a reference to the likely amount required even to pursue such a campaign.
Mr Packer further stated that a “mistake” had been made previously via excessive capital expenditure on the firm’s Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth properties in Australia, and that he didn’t want to make that error with the current AUD2.4-billion Crown Sydney construction.
In August the casino firm reported revenue from VIP play down 40 percent year-on-year for the 12 months to June 30.
Crown Resorts’ annual results were hit by the downsizing of the company’s international operations, following the arrest last October of a number of its employees, including Jason O’Connor, executive vice president VIP international.
Sixteen of the 19 employees from Crown Resorts detained were given jail sentences by a Shanghai court in June this year.
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President and chief executive of casino equipment provider Scientific Games