Japan Could Approve 4 Casino Licenses and $48 Entrance Fee
The Japanese casino law has come into focus over the past week. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito (Buddist) Party are negotiating terms of the Integrated Resort (IR) Implementation Bill, which should be introduced to the Japanese Diet sometime in April.
In February, the LDP pushed a bill which included 6 casino licenses and $19 casino entrance fees for Japanese residents. In March, the Komeito Party discussed a bill which would include $76 entrance fees and 2 casino licenses.
Over the past week, the two sides have begun serious negotiations on the terms of the Japanese Casino Bill. While nothing is determined for certain, the two sides appear to be compromising on the number of casino licenses and the size of entrance fees.
Japan Times reported that an agreement in principle had been struck on March 27.
4 Casino Licenses Likely
Seeking Alpha further reported that the number of casino license has been narrowed down to 3, 4, or 5. The conventional wisdom is 4 casino licenses eventually will be the model adopted, as the natural centerpoint between the two sides.
Similarly, a casino entrance fee of $48 is being discussed by the two sides, which is roughly the center-point between the two sides’ positions. The idea of a fee for Japanese residents comes from the Singapore model, which sought to restrict the social issues that problem gambling might have caused for mid-stakes gamblers and penny players.
Las Vegas Sands $10 Billion Investment
The latest buzz suggests that Las Vegas Sands Corp. would invest $10 billion in an Osaka integrated casino-resort, if LVS received a casino license in the Osaka area. The Osaka-Kobe region is Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area with a combined 17 million residents. Osaka (pictured above) is also the world’s largest port, which assures a lot of foreign visitors to the area.
US gaming companies like Las Vegas Sands have been concerned about major restrictions on the gambling of Japanese residents. Some suggestions pointed to a ban on Japanese gambling, no markers for Japanese high rollers, no junket operators at all, and unrealistic limitations on the size of casino’s gaming floors. The $76 entrance fee also was a concern.
Those fears seem to have evaporated as more details emerged. A $48 fee which lets any Japanese resident enter the casino would not be as detrimental to business, it would seem. Las Vegas Sands’ CEO Sheldon Adelson is well aware of the Singapore casino model, as his Marina Bay Sands in the city-state generates more revenue than any casino in the world. Similar restrictions have not harmed Marina Bay Sands.
Curbing Urges of Problem Gamblers
The entrance fee is a major score for the Komeito Party, though. Paying $45 to $50 to enter the casino is meant to curb the worst excesses of addictive gamblers. With such a fee in place, it makes support for the bill more palatable for the Komeito Party, which represents the social conservative wing of the governing coalition led by the LDP.
Limits on Casino Visits
Limits on the number of visits per week and per month are considered important, too. The proposed bill would limit Japanese residents to 3 casino visits per week and 10 casino visits per month.
Those figures are closer to the original proposals than the other negotiated aspects of the IR Implementation Bill. The original proposal called for a limit of 3 visits to the casinos in a 10-day period, along with the familiar 10 visits per month. 3 visits in a 7-day period thus represents a loosening on the Komeito Party’s original suggestion. It gives gamblers the chance to visit virtually every-other-day in a single week’s time.
Japanese Casino Licensing Process
If Japan limits its casino licenses to four, then the competition for those licenses is going to be fierce. Galaxy Entertainment Group and Melco International, both Hong Kong casino companies with huge investments in Macau, are expected to make strong pushes for a Japanese casino license.
Galaxy Entertainment owns casinos in Macua, while it is planning a casino for Boracay Island in the Philippines. Melco’s CEO, Lawrence Ho, owns casinos in Macau, the Philippines, and near Vladivostok in Russia. Melco also is planning for a casino in Cyprus.
Las Vegas Sands and Caesars Entertainment
American casino companies like LVS, Caesars Entertainment, and MGM Resorts can be expected to apply for a casino license in Japan. Wynn Resorts normally might, but it is beset with troubles stemming from ex-CEO’s Steve Wynn’s fall from power. Wynn Resorts also has a complicated history with Universal Entertainment Corporation, a pachinko machine manufacturer in Japan.
Genting Group, the other operator in Singapore, also might apply for a Japanese casino license. Genting currently is building the most expensive casino in the history of Las Vegas, so it has the resources to compete with any operator applying for a license. If 4 casino licenses are approved, the Osaka/Kobe and Tokyo/Yokohama areas would be the most lucrative casino licenses to own. The Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area has 37 million people and is arguably the largest cityscape in the world.