Gaming conference organizer Clarion Events – the folks behind ICE Totally Gaming, EiG and GIGSE – has announced its first foray into the land of the rising sun via the inaugural Japan Gaming Congress (JGC), set to go down in Tokyo during May 14-16, 2014. The announcement comes just days after Japanese legislators submitted their long awaited casino legislation to the nation’s parliament, and with most observers expecting the bill to pass sometime next year, the JGC is guaranteed to feature lively debate by stakeholders, analysts and politicians over just how Japan’s future casino industry will develop.
Clarion portfolio director Kate Chambers said the JGC would allow all interested parties to “provide firsthand experiences on the main points of the proposed regulatory frameworks, which will help in planning entry strategy into the market accordingly.” Among those interested parties will be Las Vegas Sands president Michael Leven, whose firm is far from alone in expressing keen interest in being granted one of the highly lucrative casino concessions. Leven said the JGC is “extremely timely and represents a unique opportunity for dialogue on the key requirements needed to successfully enter into the Japanese market.”
While Japan’s casino plans have their opponents, the combination of lingering expenses from the 2011 earthquake/tsunami and the need to pay for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will help twist the arms of any lawmakers still on the fence about introducing casino gambling to Japan. Nicholas Smith, a Japan specialist at Asian-focused investment outfit CLSA, recently told CNBC that “any local politician who votes against [the legislation] can go and get his coat because he’s probably out of a job.” Such sentiments were echoed by Sunrise Brokers’ head of Asian equities Ben Collett, who believes Japan’s “tide of conservative fiscal habits has turned.”
Hideki Makihara, a Liberal Democratic Party member of Japan’s House of Representatives, echoed recent comments by Crown Resorts chairman James Packer by noting that “generally speaking, Japanese people like gambling.” Makihara suggested Japan would follow the “Singapore model” in which gambling takes a back seat to “huge convention halls and the hotels and like a Disneyland type of playground.” These and many other visions of the future will be on full display at the JGC.