November 7, 2016 – by Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Casino gaming is officially illegal in Japan — the world’s third-largest economy — but at least two Nevada gaming companies are ready to jump into the market if the Japanese Parliament soon legalizes casino gaming, said Sean McGuinness, a partner in the gaming practice group of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie law firm.
“it would be a huge market,” McGuinness said Monday on the Nevada Newsmakers TV program. Experts have speculated that a Japanese gaming industry could generate up to $40 billion annually, according to Reuters.
A reshuffling at the top of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party in August signaled that a casino gaming bill could pass during the current session of Parliament that end Nov. 30, according to news reports.
“It is a great opportunity,” McGuinness said. “It is very interesting that Japan is actually looking to do this. I was reading that they are going to bring it up in their Parliament next week. Just a few weeks ago, it sounded like they were going to wait until their Olympics (in 2020) had passed so there must be a sea change there where they feel they can bring this forward.”
The Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International is considering investing almost $10 billion into a Japanese casino through a publicly traded real estate investment trust, CEO James Murren said recently. In 2014, officials of the Las Vegas Sands also said they were prepared to invest up to $10 million in the market.
An “integrated resort,” with casinos, hotels, shopping and conference rooms could be build in Tokyo, Yokohama or Osaka by 2023, Murren told Reuters.
Japan has a widespread betting culture. It’s cities are dotted with highly popular pachinko halls, which are arcades where players can win money. However, a 2014 Japanese government survey noted that 5 percent of the adult population, or 5 million people, suffered from the compulsive gaming habit, according to CNBC. That 5 percent figure is considerably higher than the average 1 percent figure in other advanced economies, CNBC reported.
“Now they have the pachinko machines there, which are not really slot machines but a variant,” McGuinness said. “But a fully integrated resort there would probably be a real opportunity and it is good to hear that a Nevada company like MGM is in the mix there.”
Japanese officials have already met with officials from Nevada’s Gaming Control Board and other Nevada gaming entites, McGuinness said. He said Japan is intently studying Nevada-style gaming.
“They (Japanese officials) actually went to the UNLV (International) Gaming Institute as well,” McGuinness said. “They also came by and visited with a few of the (gaming) law firms and gaming lawyers. It’s a good thing they are doing their research because you need to be thorough. If you are going to be legalizing gaming for the first time as a country or state, you need to make sure that you have your goals set forth. It doesn’t really suit anybody well to just copy what another jurisdiction did entirely. So the idea that they are doing their the due diligence and going forward and checking it out is a really good sign.”
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