Destinations Asia

Japan Unlikely to Legalize Casinos in Time for 2020 Olympics

May 16, 2014 10:30 am

Skift Take

Global casino companies are ready to invest in what they see as a high potential market, but inability to legalize before the Olympics will lead Japan to miss out on a key revenue-generator during the games.

— Samantha Shankman

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Itsuo Inouye  / Reuters

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe smiles as he reports to his cabinet members Tokyo's successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics at the IOC meeting after returning from Buenos Aires, Argentina, during a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo September 10, 2013. Itsuo Inouye / Reuters


Japan’s lawmakers will find it difficult to pass a casino legalization bill in the current parliamentary session, Japanese legislator Masakazu Hamachi said, raising concern gambling resorts would not be open by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Scheduling challenges will make approving the bill hard, Hamachi, a New Komeito Party member of the committee set to consider the bill, said today in an interview in Tokyo.

New Komeito is part of a coalition led by the ruling Liberal Democratic party, which has promoted casino resorts as a tourism-boosting complement to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. Casino tycoons from Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn and Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. co-Chairmen Lawrence Ho and James Packer have said they’re prepared to spend billions on gambling resorts in Japan.

“I am completely in favor of the bill,” said Hamachi in Tokyo. “But it is difficult to pass because of the order of the deliberation of bills.”

Casinos can add hotels and provide an economic boost as the country draws tourists to its capital for the Olympics, officials in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party said after Tokyo won selection as host for the 2020 games. Abe is looking for ways to broaden an economic recovery that’s stalling, adding to pressure to end the ban on casinos in this session of parliament to make the most of an expected increase in visitors.

Window Closing

The current Diet session offers the last chance for passage of a casino bill in time to have gambling resorts open by then. The country’s casino market could be worth as much as $40 billion a year as early as 2025, making it Asia’s largest after Macau, according to CLSA Ltd. estimates.

“Time is of the essence,” James Murren, MGM chief executive officer, said May 14. “There seems to be a very strong political will to move this forward and who knows what that the environment will be a year or two from now.”

Once the current Diet session ends, lawmakers typically come back for an extraordinary session starting in Japan’s autumn, which means the casino bill could have an additional chance to pass before the end of the year.

The bill can be passed in the autumn, Hamachi said.

With assistance from Yusuke Miyazawa and Lily Nonomiya in Tokyo.

To contact the reporters on this story: Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at ireynolds1@bloomberg.net; Takashi Hirokawa in Tokyo at thirokawa@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Frank Longid at flongid@bloomberg.net; Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net Dave McCombs, Suresh Seshadri.

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