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Japan: the last great casino market to fall?


Japan was always considered one of the largest untapped markets for casinos. Soon after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was elected in 2012 the idea began to develop and at the end of 2016 Japanese legislators finally passed a law with the aim of legalising casinos. This brings an end to 15 years of political wrangling and it now paves the way for the development of Integrated Resorts


Te Casino Bill, officially known as Bill Promoting Implementation of Specified Integrated Resort Areas, was sponsored by a group of lawmakers mostly from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the aim behind it is to attract more foreign tourists into the country by legalising integrated casino resorts, featuring hotels, shops and conference spaces at various locations across the country whilst helping cash strapped jurisdictions.


As such Japan could become Asia’s second largest casino industry after Macau and analysts predict annual turnovers of anything between US$10bn and $25bn depending on the number of developed resorts.


Japan already has a very successful tourism industry with around 28.7 million international tourists in 2017, an increase of 19 per cent on the year before, whilst foreign visitors to Japan have doubled in the last decade.


In 2008 the Japan Tourism Agency was set up by the government to increase tourism visitors by 20 million by 2020. However having already met that target the government has since revised its target to 40 million by 2020.


Te number of Chinese tourists stood at nearly 7.4 million last year, an increase of 15.4 per cent and as such China was the biggest single source market with a quarter of all Japan’s overseas visitors. Tere are relaxed visa regulations for the Chinese and it is thought this will only continue. Te Chinese are followed by South Koreans (7.1 million), Taiwanese (4.6 million)


and then visitors from Hong Kong and the US.


Overall travel expenditure for international visitors to Japan in 2017 amounted to ¥4.41 trillion – a 17.8 per cent increase on the previous year. China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and US accounted for 76 per cent of this.


Te discussions about legalising casinos in Japan has been on the table for many years when the Liberal Democratic Party produced a report called ‘Japan’s Basic Policy concerning the Introduction of Casino Entertainment.’


A bill was then initially submitted to the Diet in the autumn of 2014 but due to a political scandal at the time and the Lower House being dissolved the content of this bill was not fully discussed.


Ten in 2016 the LDP and members of a cross party group called the Alliance, submitted the Casino Bill to implement IR legislation to the Japanese Diet, which was passed in December 2016.


Te Casino Bill basically outlines the necessary legislative measures which are needed to invoke the act and is the first procedure for the introduction of permitting casinos in Japan. It plans to take a two stage legislative process – firstly the passing of the act to ‘facilitate’ the development of Integrated Resorts and secondly the passing of an act to ‘implement’ IR. Te current bill only focuses on the first part and contains 23 articles basically outlining the general policy and process to ‘facilitate’ the introduction of casinos.


NEWSWIRE / INTERACTIVE /MARKET DATA P107


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