See More on Facebook

Curiosity, Economics

Japan’s government ready to bet the house on casinos

Locals and foreign residents to pay $74 admission fee; Visits capped at 10 per month.


Written by

Updated: June 20, 2018

Japan’s powerful Lower Chamber of Parliament has passed a controversial Bill to regulate the setting up of integrated resorts, including casinos. This paves the way for casino moguls to enter what is projected to become the world’s second-largest gaming market, after Macau.

Yesterday’s acrimonious session was marked by heckling, with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) coalition being accused of railroading the casino regulation Bill. It came days after a physical scuffle broke out in Parliament over a fiery debate on the integrated resorts (IRs) law.

The Bill, which clearly takes a leaf out of Singapore’s book, spells out a raft of measures meant to address public concerns that casinos might aggravate issues of problem gambling and organised crime.

IRs will be restricted to only three sites for a start, though this will be put up for review seven years after the first approvals are granted. Locals, as well as foreign residents, will have to pay a 6,000 yen (S$74) admission fee, and are allowed up to three visits per week, capped at a maximum 10 visits a month.

The size of the casino, or gaming space, will be limited to 3 per cent or less of the total IR area. Operators will need to pay a 30 per cent gaming tax to the central and local governments.

But Japan already has five million gambling addicts, or about 5 per cent of its adult population, due to online gambling and its widespread pachinko parlours, which operate in a legal grey zone by offering prizes that players can exchange for cash at another venue.

Gaming consultancies have said Japan’s casino market could be worth about US$16 billion (S$22 billion), about half of Macau’s yearly revenues but some US$5 billion more than that of Las Vegas. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

“While Japan has modelled its system on Singapore’s, with the same social safeguards, it must remember that this needs to be implemented across all forms of gaming, including pachinko parlours,” Mr Brendan Bussmann of Las Vegas gaming and hospitality consultancy Global Market Advisors told The Straits Times.

He said strong casino operators have a track record of promoting responsible gaming programmes, and can leverage technology and other resources to spot problem gamblers.

Already, leading casino giants such as Las Vegas Sands, MGM, Caesars and the Hong Kong-based Melco Resorts & Entertainment are raring to place their bets on Japan, with pledges of multibillion-dollar investments.

And a slew of cities have expressed interest in IRs, including Tomakomai in southern Hokkaido and Kushiro in eastern Hokkaido, Sendai in the north-east, Wakayama in central Japan and Sasebo in Nagasaki in the south-west. These will likely be pitted against big cities, including Osaka, as well as Yokohama and Chiba in the Greater Tokyo region.

“Integrated resorts will create new employment and culture, bolstering Japan’s international competitive power,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier this month.

Gaming consultancies have said Japan’s casino market could be worth about US$16 billion (S$22 billion), about half of Macau’s yearly revenues but some US$5 billion more than that of Las Vegas.

Japan, which drew a record 28.6 million foreign tourists last year, anticipates 40 million visitors by 2020, when it is due to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The first IRs are set to open only after the Games – possibly around 2023 – and Japan hopes they will help to sustain continued tourism growth. Targets have been set for 60 million tourists by 2030.

  • 5m

    Number of gambling addicts in Japan, or about 5 per cent of its adult population, due to online gambling and its pachinko parlours.

    40m

    Number of visitors anticipated by Japan by 2020, when it is due to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Experts say the IRs will be a major boost for rural revitalisation, especially as they will help to create jobs and jump-start the local economy at a time when many Japanese areas are facing depopulation.

But they also argue that Japan will reap maximum economic impact from the IRs only if they open near major cities, drawing travellers keen on other entertainment options, as well as organisers of Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) events.

“As Japan looks to locations, it must balance between urban facilities in cities such as Osaka and Yokohama while also developing regional facilities in more rural parts in the prefectures of Nagasaki and Hokkaido,” Mr Bussmann said.

The Bill will now go before Parliament’s upper chamber for debate. Although the current session is set to close today, the LDP has said it will ask for an extension.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Curiosity, Economics

Asia’s largest LGBTQ exhibition to open in Bangkok later this year

The exhibition will run from March through next year. “Spectrosynthesis II- Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia”, the largest-ever survey of regional contemporary art, will explore gender issues and feature more than 200 works by 50 artists. It will open at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) on November 23 and run until March 1 next year. The exhibition received huge critical acclaim when it was first staged in Taiwan 2017, after which its Hong Kong-based organiser, the Sunpride Foundation, chose Bangkok as its second stop. “Bangkok is my second home and Thailand is the most friendly LGBT country in Asia and the more liberal nation,” said Patrick Sun, founder of Sunpride Foundation. “Taiwan is the one of th


By The Nation (Thailand)
January 10, 2019

Curiosity, Economics

Ex-ambassador urges former colleague to defect to South Korea

A feature story from Korean Herald outlining the intricacies of a possible defection by Pyongyang’s ambassador in Italy. A former senior North Korean diplomat who defected to the South in 2016 on Saturday urged a former colleague who has gone into hiding before ending his term in Italy to come to Seoul, as opposed to the US where he is reportedly seeking asylum. Thae Yong-ho, who was the deputy ambassador in London and the most recent senior diplomat to defect, wrote an open letter to Jo Song-gil, 44, until recently North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy, who fled the Rome embassy with his wife in early November without notice. Jo became


By The Korea Herald
January 7, 2019

Curiosity, Economics

Pakistan seals financial assistance from UAE

$3 billion financial assistance sealed as Abu Dhabi Crown Prince meets Imran Khan in Islamabad. Pakistani and United Arab Emirates leadership have met thrice now in three months. Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the UAE twice after assuming office in August to seek economic assistance. Both countries last week finalised the terms and conditions of a $6.2 billion support package for Islamabad to help address its balance-of-payments crisis. A joint statement issued after the UAE royal’s visit said Prime Minister Khan thanked the crown prince for the “generous” balance-of-payments support of $3 billion, which appears to have materialised first out of the total financial package. Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, who last visited


By Dawn
January 7, 2019

Curiosity, Economics

China lands probe on far side of the moon

It is the first manmade probe to land on the far side. Humankind’s lunar exploration history saw the opening of a new chapter on Thursday morning as the world’s first explorer of the moon’s far side landed at its destination after a 26-day space journey. The Chang’e 4 lunar probe, the latest step in China’s endeavor to explore the silver sphere, landed at 10:26 on the Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitken basin and then sent back a picture of the landing site shot by one of the monitor cameras on the probe’s lander, marking the world’s first image taken on the moon’s far side. The picture, published by the China National Space Administration, shows the place where Chang’e 4’s rover will be heading to roam and survey. The successful landing formally inaugurated the world’s first expedition to the far side that never faces the E


By China Daily
January 4, 2019

Curiosity, Economics

Japanese emperor turns 85, glad for war-free reign

The emperor made his last speech before his pending abdication. Japan’s Emperor Akihito, who turned 85 yesterday, has said he was heartened that the Heisei (achieving peace) era was coming to an end without his country having engaged in war. “It gives me deep comfort that the Heisei era is coming to an end, free of war in Japan,” the pacifist monarch said in an emotional news conference held at the Imperial Palace ahead of his birthday. Of the war that Japan waged in his father’s name, he added: “It is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in World War II and that the peace and prosperity of post-war Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people.” He stressed that it was crucial to “pass on this history accurately to those born after the war”, in what was his last birthday news confere


By The Straits Times
December 26, 2018

Curiosity, Economics

Afghan war helped Pakistan keep nuclear option: US papers

US backing for anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan may have enabled the Pakistan bomb. Torn between preventing Pakistan from going nuclear and fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, the United States appears to have decided that pushing the Russians out of Kabul was more important, shows a set of documents released by the US State Department. Official US memos and letter — released under an arrangement to make public official documents after 30 years — show that Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (in office from 1978 to 1989) also played a key role in convincing Washington to continue to support Islamabad despite its nuclear programme. Timeline: History of US-Pakistan relations A confidential State Department report, dated Aug 20, 1984, shows that by 1984 Washington knew Islamabad had acquired the


By Dawn
December 24, 2018