Too much focus on protecting players in Japan’s nascent casino industry could have a negative effect on that country’s economic growth objectives regarding gaming liberalisation, said Ed Bowers, executive vice president for global development at MGM Resorts International, during a panel session at the International Casino Exhibition (ICE) 2018, in London on Tuesday.
MGM Resorts has declared itself a contender for a Japanese casino licence and the group’s chairman James Murren has said US$10 billion was a “good number” regarding a likely price tag for such a project.
Mr Bowers stated in Tuesday’s panel session, regarding the potential for overregulating the casino sector in Japan: “For political reasons, you end up inserting different things that result in unintended consequences – such as if you apply too much pressure, a high tax rate, high entry free, or limit to the floor space. As you push one lever, it may have repercussions on other areas,” stated the executive, according to an account on the ICE 2018 website of a panel session titled “A year in the life of a Japanese integrated resort”.
Mr Bowers noted that the plan to introduce so-called integrated resorts in Japan had particular objectives, which he said included: improving the nation’s meetings incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) facilities; ensuring that such resorts delivered high-quality, in-depth non-gaming entertainment; guaranteeing such venues acted as an entry point to the wider Japanese tourism market for overseas visitors; and that they did so in a way that mitigated the risk of harm to consumers in relation to the gambling product.
Edward Tracy, chief executive of Hard Rock Japan, which is also in the running for a Japan permit, urged the casino industry to work with lawmakers, experts and the Japanese public by “addressing each and every issue,” including consumer safety.
“We’re not out there to do it incorrectly, we are there to make sure its sustainable,” he said. “The best way, in my view, is to find those common denominator issues and talk about them,” Mr Tracy was quoted as saying.
Legislation making casino gambling legal in Japan came officially into effect in December 2016. The second piece of legislation – known as the Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill – now needs to be approved detailing the specifics: how casinos are administered and regulated; the taxation regime to be applied to them; their location; and the number of licences to be issued.
Akira Kurita from Hakuhodo Inc, a Japanese advertising and public relations firm, told the panel that an estimated “50 percent” of Japanese residents were against introducing casinos to the country.
But he noted: “Achieving… growth in tourism is the main driver for doing this. These are important critical points – the government needs to go back to why they originally thought of this idea.”
The advertising executive said it was important for the industry to maintain a dialogue with Japanese lawmakers prior to the submission of the IR Implementation Bill to a parliamentary committee, which he said was likely to be on March 9. In late January, when the current session of Japan’s parliament started, GGRAsia reported it might be April at the earliest, before the IR Implementation Bill was put to all the country’s lawmakers.
“This is going to be a long journey, it could be 20 years in the making. I am more hopeful that we see something more this year then it will start a process that will at least be legislated for,” MGM Resorts’ Mr Bowers was quoted as saying on the panel.
Mike Tanji, chairman of Tokyo-based Gaming Capital Management Inc and previously a senior executive at Japanese gaming entrepreneur Kazuo Okada’s former corporate entity Aruze Corp, was quoted saying one of the bill’s sticking points was the implementation of additional measures to prevent gambling addiction. It has previously been widely reported that such safeguards were likely to be introduced via a separate piece of legislation known as the “Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures”.
The panel moderator, Jan Jones, executive vice president for public policy at U.S.-based Caesars Entertainment Corp – which has also declared itself a Japan contender – added that the ability of companies to invest capital in a Japan scheme would depend on the language contained within pending legislation.
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”We expect it [the first phase of casino resort Hoiana in Vietnam] to open in October, and by then basically 90 percent of the first-phase content will be launched – such as the golf course, and hotels”
Andrew Lo Kai Bong
Executive director of project investor Suncity Group