The possibility of legalising casinos in Japan has attracted the interest of global operators, but some restrictions are expected, says Steve Wynn (pictured), chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd.
“I don’t think anyone believes that Japan is going to be a wide open market. I think there’s going to be some form of limitation,” Mr Wynn said in a press conference today after Wynn Macau Ltd’s annual general meeting. Wynn Resorts is the parent company of Wynn Macau.
The casino mogul said the company has had contacts with “several big Japanese companies”, but declined to identify them. Wynn Resorts had previously said it would invest over US$4 billion in Japan if it got a casino licence.
Foreign operators are expected to have to partner with local companies to materialise their investments in Japan. Japanese companies, including Sega Sammy Holdings Inc, Konami Corp and Dynam Japan Holdings Co Ltd, have shown interest in a casino licence in Japan.
“Many of them have come to us, and to Las Vegas and to Macau, and I’m sure to Singapore, to examine the credentials of companies such as ours,” said Mr Wynn. “Conversations at this point are tentative, because the legislation has not taken an official step to indicate the final direction,” he added.
The prospect of legalising casinos is fuelling a lively debate in Japan and much of that discussion is about the timing of the initial enabling bill. Japanese lawmakers supporting the bill and a special adviser to the prime minister said today it would be tough to pass the law before the end of the current parliament session, which ends in five weeks.
“We are waiting currently before the Diet adjourns for an indication,” Mr Wynn said today.
If a bill is passed before the June 22 deadline, “most likely it will indicate a strong likelihood of the matter proceeding even further,” Mr Wynn said quoting readings from Japanese experts. “If the bill does not pass this year, that will indicate it is more likely it is not going to happen,” he said.
Several foreign casino operators have announced interest to operate in Japan. Broker CLSA Ltd estimates the Japanese gaming market could be worth US$40 billion per year.
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