Sheldon Adelson (pictured), chairman and founder of U.S.-based casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS), last week visited Tokyo and Osaka “to get an update” on developments regarding the steps needed to implement the country’s plan for a regulated casino industry, the company confirmed in an emailed reply to GGRAsia.
“Mr Adelson was in Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) to get an update on the situation there and offer LVS’s support in any fashion that might be helpful to the process overall, especially given his well-documented leadership in the MICE industry,” said the email from Ron Reese, senior vice president, public relations for Las Vegas Sands.
He was referring latterly to meetings, incentives, conferences and events – a business segment that Las Vegas Sands has aggressively promoted at its existing Asian casino resort operations in Macau and Singapore.
The Japanese government has presented the introduction of casino resorts as a way of increasing the number of foreign tourists visiting the country and as a way of boosting economic growth in its regions. It has proposed a bidding process for any Japan casino licences, although the precise timetable and terms have not yet been announced.
Global Market Advisors LLC – a U.S.-based consultant to the casino gaming, hotel and airline industries – said in its white paper on Japan’s nascent gaming industry issued on May 1, that there were likely to be an initial one to three so-called integrated resorts (IRs) in a first-round request for proposals, with a second round beginning “after the initial IRs have opened and demonstrated their benefits to Japan”.
Investor services firm Morningstar Inc suggested in a July report that Las Vegas Sands was a leading contender for an initial Japan casino licence, along with MGM Resorts International. The latter also has a subsidiary with casino operations in Macau.
Morningstar’s July research paper said Tokyo was likely to miss out on being a host city for a casino venue, due to “an unclear government stance, the [2020 Summer] Olympics, and site location challenges”.
Tokyo and Osaka were respectively the first and second locations for a series of nine public hearings arranged by the Japanese government and held in August. The goal of these public hearings, according to the government, was to address public concerns about potential risks related to casino gambling.
Such opinion could influence the content of the IR Implementation Bill, which may be submitted to the country’s parliament in the 2017 extraordinary session starting in the autumn. It is expected it will detail specifics of the industry: how casinos are administered and regulated; the taxation regime to be applied to them; their location; and the number of licences to be issued.
Brokerage Union Gaming Securities Asia Ltd said in a July memo that Japan risked “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” if it burdened its casino bidding process with too much and too stringent regulation.
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“We see that basically the ‘golden’ periods [for Macau's casino industry] are all concentrated in the second half of this year”
Lei Wai Nong
Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance