CASINO

Wynn Resorts says Okada fight won’t derail Japan casino bid

TAGs: Japan, Kazuo Okada, Wynn Resorts

wynn-okada-fight-japan-casinoCasino operator Wynn Resorts is dismissing suggestions that its long-running highly public legal squabble with Kazuo Okada could jeopardize Wynn’s pursuit of a Japanese casino license.

This week, Morningstar analysts suggested that the five-year legal battle between Wynn and Okada, founder of Japanese gaming operator Universal Entertainment Corp, could spell trouble when Japan’s regulators finally get around to awarding the country’s first integrated resort licenses.

The suggestion is that Wynn’s 2012 forcible redemption of Okada’s significant holdings in Wynn stock and allegations of corruption surrounding Okada’s Philippine gaming operations might not sit well with Japanese regulators. Universal is one of Japan’s major pachinko operators, with subsidiaries that run casinos and manufacture gaming devices.

Wynn’s marketing maven Michael Weaver dismissed these concerns, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the company remains skeptical that the Okada brouhaha “will be a factor at all.”

Weaver was less vocal about Morningstar’s assertion that Wynn’s relative lack of commitment to MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) space compared to other major casino operators (Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, etc.) could also prove a drag on Wynn’s Japanese ambitions, as Japanese politicians have been keen to stress the non-gaming emphasis of its proposed integrated resorts.

Analysts are still unsure as to how many integrated resort licenses will be up for grabs, and the answer to that question likely won’t be known until next year. Japanese legislators passed a bill last year that amended the country’s constitution to lift its ban on casino gambling, but two other pieces of legislation need approval before operators can start filing applications.

The first of these pending bills deals with how best to mitigate the potential social harms of casino gambling. Only when that matter has been resolved can legislators turn to the so-called Implementation Act, which will spell out the nuts and bolts of casino regulation, including how many venues will be permitted, where they’ll be built and what operators can and cannot offer their customers.

Despite early optimism, passage of the Implementation Act this year was already looking dubious, and that was before Prime Minister Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party suffered its recent defeats in Tokyo. A few years ago, talk was that Tokyo could launch its first casino in time for the 2020 Olympic Games; the most recent estimates have Japan’s first integrated resort not opening until 2024 at the earliest. Honestly, will morning never come in the land of the rising sun?

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