Japan intends to restrict initial access to its planned new casinos to foreigners-only. Japanese legislators are currently debating passage of a casino study bill that would revise the country’s constitution to permit development of casinos. Legislators hope to pass the study bill in the current session, which ends Nov. 30, paving the way for a second bill that would hammer out the nuts and bolts of casino regulation and licensing. Assuming all that transpires according to plan, the hope is that Japan’s first casino could open its doors in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
On Tuesday, legislative members of the so-called Integrated Resorts group agreed to amend the study bill’s draft text to limit casino accessibility to foreign nationals. A separate law specifically addressing the rights of Japanese citizens to enter casinos would need to be enacted following passage of the study bill. Legislators offered no guidance on how long of a delay would pass between the casinos opening their doors and Japanese citizens being allowed entry.
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the change was instituted in order to assuage concerns by members of the Komeito party – the upper house coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) – of the potential social harms of casinos on Japanese citizens. Late last month, Koichi Hagiuda, a LDP member in the House of Representatives, told Bloomberg that the social harm issue would be mitigated by requiring Japanese nationals to pay a Singapore-style casino entry levy of €5k (US $45). Apparently, this was insufficient to address Komeito’s concerns.
An aide to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed concern over the change, saying the internationals-only restriction would render the new casinos unprofitable. International casino firms have publicly mused about spending as much as $10b to develop a Japanese casino but Abe’s aide warned that the new restriction would cause the momentum behind these billions to “lose steam.” On Wednesday, Union Gaming Research issued a report saying the foreigners-only policy would be “a non-starter” in terms of convincing international operators to open their checkbooks.