Japan could generate billions of US dollars in revenue annually if it allows casinos to operate.
While consensus is still needed for approval, a bill legalizing the industry is up for review in the current session of the Diet, which may lead to two or more integrated resorts opening in 2020-2021.
Several factors support Japan’s market potential.
Visitors from northeast China will have a closer alternative than Macau.
From the nine Chinese provinces closest to Japan, 3.4 million tourists traveled to Macau last year and spent an estimated US$6 billion on and off the casino floor, based on the average revenue per visitor.
To use Singapore as a model, the city state’s 15.6 million visitors in 2014 outpaced all of Japan’s, and its two integrated resorts have been catalysts for tourist growth since 2010.
They also generate more than US$5 billion in annual revenue.
Japan’s local-market opportunity is also core to integrated resort operators’ interests.
Pachinko is a slot machine-like game that generates about US$20 billion in revenue.
The potential boost to tourism and local economies has sparked the interest of local governments and regional cities, from world-class ski destination Sapporo to tropical Okinawa.
Tokyo and Osaka are front-runners, with air and rail networks, large populations and major corporate bases to drive convention businesses.
Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Melco Crown and Genting Singapore are among operators vying for a piece of the action.
The views expressed in this article are those of Tim Craighead, director of Asian research and senior gaming analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
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