Gaming legislation that would legalize casinos in Japan this year has been scuttled once again as local sources report that plans for an extraordinary session of parliament have been shelved. It will be the first time in a decade that Japan’s two-chamber Diet has put off its fall session.
According to Grant Goversten, a Gaming Securities Asia analyst, the gambling bill cannot move forward without the special session of the Diet. Goversten said, “Gaming expansion is of the table for 2015 as we believe it is unlikely that the opposition parties will be successful in their demands for a special session, and even if so that would be enough time (or demand) for the gaming expansion bill.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wanted to bring the gambling bill into focus in 2012 when it was announced that Tokyo would be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, however, in August Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party decided instead to focus on getting national security bills passed that would overhaul post-war defense policies.
According to Goversten, the 2016 Diet session is the earliest possible time for the IR Promotion bill, the first of two gaming bills needed for successful gaming expansion to potentially pass, and added, “In our opinion, 2022 is now the earliest a large-scale IR is likely to be opened in Japan.”
In addition to the exponential increase of Chinese visitors to Japan, up 117 percent to 3.3 million through August in comparison to last year’s 83 percent increase, South Korea is also seeing increased tourist traffic from Chinese tourists. That represents a loss of customers for Macau’s mass market segment which hopes to change once Melco Crown’s Studio City Macau opens next week.
When and if the casino legislation passes, Japan could become second to the U.S., the world’s largest gaming market. Interest in investing has been expressed by major casino operators, among others, in Asia. The hope was to have Japan’s first resort casino opened in time for the 2020 Olympic Games to be held there, but as time goes on, that is looking increasingly doubtful.