American casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corporation has reportedly emerged as a front-runner to secure one of up to four integrated casino resort licenses that are expected to be handed out by legislators in Japan.

According to a report from Asia Gaming Brief citing a briefing from Morningstar Investment Management Asia analyst Chelsey Tam, the Las Vegas-based firm has thrust itself to the front of the queue thanks to its strong global portfolio that includes The Venetian Macao and Sands Macao in Macau as well as Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands.

Tam reportedly stated that Japan will generate approximately $19 billion in annual gaming revenues from its casinos with an additional $6 billion coming from non-gaming amenities such as hotels and restaurants while tax and earnings before interest, tax depreciation, and amortization margins are likely to be similar to those seen in Singapore.

“Our $57 fair value estimate for [Las Vegas] Sands [Corporation shares] might increase by around a high single-digit percentage as we evaluate the impact from a Japanese gaming license over the coming weeks, which would leave shares slightly undervalued at current share prices,” read the report from Tam.

Following the passage of enabling legislation in late-December, lawmakers in Japan are now reportedly in the process of establishing specific guidelines and rules for the coming Western-style gambling projects, which are to contain casinos, hotels, shops and conference spaces. It is widely expected that the government will require foreign firms to partner with local municipalities in order to bid for one of up to four licenses with Tam declaring that she expects two of these to be earmarked for urban areas such as Tokyo or Osaka with the remaining pair designated for less populated zones like the northern island of Hokkaido.

If it hopes to eventually secure a license, Las Vegas Sands Corporation will reportedly have to beat off stiff competition from the likes of Crown Resorts Limited, Boyd Gaming Corporation, Genting Singapore, Galaxy Entertainment Group Limited and Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited while Tam explained that the new venues could begin welcoming their first guests by as early as 2023.

Finally, Tam reportedly detailed that foreign casino operators in Japan can expect somewhere around a 20% return on invested capital assuming an outlay of about $10 billion while proclaiming that she expects the final locations to be published as soon as the second half of next year with official authorizations coming in 2019.

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