Macau reassures operators on Cotai; Japan inches toward casino bill consensus

TAGs: Cotai strip, Japan, Macau

macau-cotai-japan-casinoMacau’s secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen recently told the Special Administrative Region’s Legislative Assembly that all six gaming operators in the Asian gambling hotbed will eventually get their own gaming joint on the Cotai Strip. Three operators – Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment and Melco Crown – are already in action on Cotai, while SJM, MGM China and Wynn Macau are still stuck in the queue. The news disappointed legislator Au Kam San, who’d been pushing the secretary to free up the available Cotai space for open tenders, and was quoted by the Macau Daily Times as lecturing Tam for “protecting the gaming operators” at the expense of local companies.

Regardless, Tam’s reassurance will likely come as comforting news to Wynn, who offered the government a MOP 1.55b (US $193m) premium in September for a plot of Cotai land adjacent to Melco’s City of Dreams, only to be told at the time that the government “has yet to make a final decision.” Tam also rejected suggestions that the government should impose further caps on table game growth. The current plan calls for a hard cap until 2013, and 3% growth per annum for ten years after that. At that rate, Tam estimates Macau will ultimately have 2,000 more tables in action, but “if it happens gradually it’s likely the society will be able to accept it.” Tam also stated that further restrictions on table growth would make it too difficult for those future Cotai operations to attract the necessary investment with which to erect the gaming palaces.

Politicians in Japan continue to take baby steps towards opening up their market to resort casinos. On Friday, members of Japan’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) met to discus the draft law cobbled together by the multi-party Integrated Resort Diet Members Association. The new 17-member “Working Team Considering Integrated Resorts and Casinos” is studying operations in Singapore and Korea, and may mimic those jurisdictions’ policies of discouraging locals from crossing the casino threshold.

DPJ member Kenji Tamura, who is chairing the working team, told his group “will probably meet once or twice a week to go over the issue and try to get some direction on whether we can get a consensus by the end of this extraordinary parliament session, which ends in December.” Japan’s other parties will hold their own meetings on the bill and offer suggested changes. Takashi Kiso of Tokyo consultancy International Casino Institute Ltd. described the policy chiefs for both the DPJ and Liberal Democratic Party as “strong casino supporters” but cautioned that the bill’s future could be “affected by unrelated squabbles.”

Assuming things don’t get bogged down in petty bickering, a rejigged bill could be submitted to parliament early next year. Execs from Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Genting and Melco Crown have all expressed interested in building on Japanese soil. As for where these prospective casinos would be built, Kiso speculated that the frontrunners would include Osaka and Okinawa, communities “where the local government and its inhabitants have been showing strong support.” Sadly, that definition doesn’t include Tokyo, where grass roots support for building casinos simply “hasn’t happened.”


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