Japan’s Casinos to Have ¥6,000 Fee for Japanese Residents
Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) agreed with its governing coalition partner, the Komeito Party, on a ¥6,000 per visit fee for residents who visit the Japanese casinos. Foreign visitors would not be charged an entry fee.
If the ¥6,000 fee were in effect today, it would cost Japanese residents $56.16 in US dollars to enter a casino in their homeland. That fee would rise and fall with the exchange rate, but gives an idea of the range Japanese casino goers would pay.
The casino fee is based on the Singapore casino industry model, which has a fee closer to ¥8,000 per visit for Singaporean residents. The fee is designed to limit gambling among Japan’s lower and middle income residents, while leaving the industry open for Japanese high rollers, who presumably can afford to lose money while betting in a casino.
The agreement brought to an end a month-long negotiation between the LDP and Komeito Party. The LDP introduced a roughly $17 fee in a February proposal, but the Komeito Party countered with a $76 and $80 proposals. Recently, it was suggested that $48 per visit (or ¥5,000) was a likely compromise, but the LDP gave ground to Komeito Party, which represents the country’s conservative Buddhist demographic.
Casino Bill Vote by June 20
The Integrated Resort Implementation Act is now ready for introduction to the Japanese Diet. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his coalition partners want a final vote on the casino bill by June 20, when the parliamentary session ends.
With compromise on all major issues, it would appear that the LDP has the votes to pass the IR bill. If so, then the Japanese casino licensing process might begin in early 2019. It would take several years for casinos to appear in Japan, but it could provide a $10 billion to $25 billion boost to the economy, depending on the investment levels and gaming restrictions.
3% Gaming Space Limitations
US and Chinese companies who plan to invest have warned that too many restrictions would kill the golden goose. Originally, analysts estimated that Japan’s casino industry might produce $40 billion a year in revenues, but that number came down to $25 billion when it was realized restrictions on Japanese gamblers might be implemented. Eventually, a $10 billion floor was imagined, when it was learned Japanese gamblers might be barred entirely.
As it stands now, the restrictions will be biting enough. Japanese casino owners will have to restrict their gaming floors to 3% of the space in their integrated resorts. The 15,000-square foot limit works fine for the Singapore casinos, but Japanese has much larger populations and much heavier population density in metropolitan areas like Tokyo/Yokohama (37 million) and Osaka/Kobe (17 million), so it is uncertain how the 3% restriction will work in Japan.
10 Casino Visits Per Month
Japanese residents also will be restricted to 3 casino visits in a 7-day period, along with 10 total casino visits in a month’s time. Those visits will be monitored using Japan’s “My Number” personal identity cards, which will use chip technology to monitor casino visits. The My Number card system, also known as the “Social Security and Tax Number System“, was adopted in 2016.
In all cases, non-residents have no restrictions. The idea is to give foreign tourists full access to Japanese casinos. Also, Japanese high rollers will have a chance to gamble, while Japanese mid-stakes players can afford the cost, but might limit their play due to the entrance fee. Penny players and problem gamblers facing cash concerns presumably would consider the ¥6,000 per visit fee to be a prohibitive cost.
Japanese Casino Markers?
The LDP has not mentioned the final decision on high roller restrictions which could have a huge effect on the level of play by Japanese and foreign high stakes gamblers. It is unknown if casino markers — a kind of credit offered to high rollers by a casino — will be legal in the new system.
In the United States and Europe, casino markers act as IOUs to high rollers who wager over $10,000 or so in a single session. In Nevada and other states, casino markers act as an enforceable debt and refusal to pay such markers is a crime — and not treated like normal debt.
Japanese Junket Operators?
Macau does not allow casino markers, because Macau casinos could not enforce the pay of gambling debts in mainland China’s courts. Instead, a system of junket operators sprung up to offer Chinese high rollers credit for their casino gaming. To enforce debt collection, junket operators turned to Chinese organized crime. That system worked for nearly ten years, but eventually led to a crackdown on Macau’s junket operators.
If Japan’s politicians eliminate casino markers, then they have to decide whether to allow junket operators. If junket operators are allowed, then Japan’s lawmakers might open the door for the Yakuza to get into loan sharking to high rollers. Yet if the lawmakers ban both casino markers and junket operators, then Japan’s casino industry will be robbed of its high stakes gambling and a huge revenue stream (and tax stream).
The Japanese casino bill still has mysteries to decipher. As more details emerge, BOC will provide news and analysis.