Union Gaming Research Macau Ltd says the submission of an enabling bill for casino resorts in Japan still seems possible during that country’s current parliamentary session, which is due to end on June 24.
But analysts Grant Govertsen and Felicity Chiang cautioned in a note on Tuesday: “As with previous years, the next big question is: will debate begin with enough time to ensure both houses of the Diet [Japan's parliament] can pass it during the regularly scheduled session [?]” The research house added that last year the process started too late in the ordinary legislative session to allow that to happen.
The two analysts however stated they remained “cautiously optimistic” that casino gaming could finally move forward in Japan, although “much will need to fall into place to make it a reality”.
Several major international operators have shown interest in investing in Japan if casino gambling is legalised there. Investment analysts have suggested Japan could become the second largest casino market in Asia by gross gaming revenue, surpassed only by Macau.
The American Gaming Association last week offered to provide support to Japan in legalising casino gambling. The idea of legalising casinos in Japan has been discussed for at least a decade.
“The first procedural step in this year’s process was set in motion last week with Japan’s junior ruling coalition partner… Komeito, agreeing to allow the senior coalition partner, the Liberal Democratic Party, to submit the casino bill,” Mr Govertsen and Ms Chiang wrote on Tuesday’s note.
They added: “However…Komeito’s allowing the bill to be submitted is quite different than…Komeito agreeing to support the bill en bloc, which would give us greater confidence in the bill’s passage.”
The two analysts said they expect the bill to be submitted soon. “[But] we do not believe that any substantial movement will occur until after the second round of local- level elections (April 26) and the subsequent holiday period,” they stated.
Instead, Mr Govertsen and Ms Chiang said things “could heat up towards the end of May”.
Implementation bill in 2016
Casino legalisation in Japan will be a two-statute process. After an enabling bill legalising casino resorts at the conceptual level, a second piece of legislation is expected to detail the specifics, including the number of casino licences, locations, tax rates and whether locals would be allowed to gamble domestically.
Assuming that the enabling bill could be passed sometime this year – either in the regularly scheduled session or in a special fall session –, Union Gaming said the implementation bill “would, in theory, follow in the next legislative session in 2016”.
Mr Govertsen and Ms Chiang added: “We believe there remains federal-level support for either a 2+1 or 2+2 initial rollout of licences, namely two large integrated resorts destined for somewhere within the metro areas of Tokyo and Osaka (one large integrated resort in each), and another one or two small integrated resorts in smaller municipalities.”
The two analysts said that under an “absolute best-case scenario”, it might be possible that “a city like Osaka” could still get a casino resort opened in time to coincide with the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
The Union Gaming team however stated that, under the current conditions, it is more likely that the first casinos would only begin operations in 2021.
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”I thought they were wise to recommend five locations across the kingdom [for casino resorts] rather than one or two locations in Bangkok”
Principal at industry consultancy C3 Gaming Group