Japan casino lobby in legalization push; market could out-strip Vegas
By Nathan Layne and Farah Master
TOKYO/HONG KONG (Reuters) - After Singapore, Japan?
A pro-casino group of Japanese lawmakers has tapped an influential member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as its leader and plans to submit legislation this year aimed at opening the world's third-largest economy to casino gambling.
Although casinos are illegal, Japanese are already active gamblers, and a pinball-like game called pachinko generates some $200 billion in revenue each year - about the same as Toyota Motor Corp. Japan is often touted as the next major casino market after Chinese enclave Macau, the world's biggest gambling hub, which raked in revenue of $38 billion last year.
A large and wealthy population coupled with a proximity to Shanghai and Beijing has the potential to transform Japan into a lucrative gaming center, providing tax revenues to shore up the state's ailing finances, analysts say. Broker CLSA estimates Japan's gaming market could be worth at least $10 billion if two large-scale integrated resorts are approved - more than Singapore's $5.9 billion and Las Vegas' $6.2 billion in 2012.
The cross-party casino group aims to submit a promotional bill to parliament in the autumn, which could be followed by concrete laws within two years, Takeshi Iwaya, the deputy head of the lobby of more than 100 lawmakers, told Reuters.
Submitting a bill would mark progress for a pro-casino camp that has struggled to gain traction for more than a decade even as other Asian countries develop multi-billion dollar resorts to attract tourists and investment. A major roadblock in Japan has been the near constant change in political leadership.
But hopes have been raised by the return to power in December elections of the business-friendly LDP under popular Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has indicated he is open to the idea of casino resorts. Continued...