The groundswell of momentum coming out of the recent Olympic announcement that Tokyo would host the 2020 Games is already being felt in the casino industry in Japan, or what could very well become a burgeoning casino industry if legislation is passed soon legalizing gambling resorts in the capital.
Earlier we pointed pointed out the timing of the Olympic announcement with the growing belief that the country is set to approve casino gambling, especially after Shinzo Abe became prime minister of the country. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party is widely viewed as being in favor of casino legalization, something George Tanasijevich, chief executive officer of Sands’ Singapore division, believes is as good a sign as any that casinos could be in Japan’s future.
“What you’ve seen since the Abe administration has come in is they have put strong leadership on these issues,” Tanasijevich told Bloomberg last week. “I feel quite optimistic about it.”
Two international operators – Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International – appear to be in serious scout mode already, looking for potential sites to build their respective casinos in the country. Another operator – Caesars – is also laying out the ground work for its Japan casino plans, something Steven Tight, president for international development for Las Vegas-based Caesars, told Bloomberg. “We are starting to think through designs and master plans and partners we think would be most appropriate and really starting to invest more heavily in this effort.”
Even operators that are based near Japan are keeping a keen eye and ear on the situation, including Asia’s biggest operator, SJM Holdings, which has shown serious interest in partnering with a local investor in Japan. “We can bring technical know-how to a local partner in Japan,” SJM boss Ambrose So said.
The timing of the Olympic announcement and the push to legalize casinos could also benefit the former now that the country will need to build more facilities, including accommodations and entertainment venues, on top of the casinos that are being planned by these operators, that can be used by tourists and fans during the Games. Employment leading up to the Olympics from all the projects could also drive the country’s economy and the revenues these casinos stand to make – roughly equal to the $10 billion Las Vegas earns annually – could help off-set costs from the Olympics, especially once the Games are officially done.
In addition to LVS, MGM, Caesars, and SJM Holdings, a host of other operators have already voiced their interest in building a casino resort in Japan, including Wynn Resorts, Genting Bhd., and Melco Crown Entertainment. Now, more than ever, a surge in interest is expected to come in light of Tokyo scoring the Olympic hosting gig in 2020.
Jay Defibaugh, an analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo, echoed these sentiments. “Victory for Tokyo’s Olympic bid will be beneficial for legislation to legalize casinos,” he said, before adding, “We have all the ingredients to make it happen, so anything that gets the administration to put a high priority on casinos versus all the other issues they’re dealing with is good.”