Casino operators push
back against Japan regulation prospects
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[July 31, 2017]
By Thomas Wilson
TOKYO (Reuters) - Foreign casino operators
are pushing back against moves to regulate the proposed introduction of
big-ticket gambling in Japan, an early sign of friction for projects
expected to generate billions of dollars for the country and the global
Japan voted late last year to legalize casinos but specifics are still
being hammered out to include in legislation on regulating proposed
integrated resorts - facilities hosting casinos, hotels and conference
A key advisory panel on Monday held its final meeting on the rules,
proposing a limit on casino floor space and curbs on entry by Japanese
nationals. The panel is expected to submit its proposals to Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe within days.
The prospect of casino gambling is unpopular in Japan, given worries
about gambling addiction and a potential increase in underground
activities. As a result, foreign casino operators have been cautious
against speaking out against specific rules.
And yet, casino executives and industry players said they have begun
lobbying politicians and bureaucrats against specific limits on casino
Bureaucrats have looked at a limit of 15,000-square-metres, casino and
government sources said, though the panel proposed only an "upper limit"
and said specific figures would be set after wider consultations.
Casino executives said the 15,000-square-metre limit could hit foreign
investment and neutralize the economic impact of resorts.
"The current plans risk missing the mark on achieving public policy
objectives," one casino executive said they had told bureaucrats. "It's
serious enough to halve the maximum investment we're willing to make."
At stake, say executives and industry representatives, is the potential
revenue from casinos and the potential size of their boost to Japan's
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A dealer picks up chips on a mock black jack casino table during a
photo opportunity at an international tourism promotion symposium in
Tokyo September 28, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino
Analysts think two resorts in big cities could generate revenue of
around $10 billion a year, while the government has touted their
potential for boosting Japan's tourist industry and creating jobs.
A senior source with direct knowledge of the government's position told
Reuters bureaucrats are minded to impose stricter rules on casinos to
placate public opposition.
"There's a need to balance the promotion of integrated resorts with
caution and listening to the public's views," the source said.
Las Vegas Sands Corp and MGM Resorts International are among foreign
operators vying to win licenses to run a Japanese casino resort. The
U.S. pair have previously said they would plough up to $10 billion
respectively into a project.
But investment of that size could be cut if the 15,000-square-metre
limit is pushed through, said Seth Sulkin, chair of a taskforce at the
American Chamber of Commerce Japan working on casino resorts.
"Gaming companies are very rational: they'll calculate how much revenue
they can generate with a 15,000-square-metre casino floor, and they will
only invest as appropriate for that, which certainly won't be $10
billion," Sulkin said.
(Reporting by Thomas Wilson; editing by Susan Thomas)
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