On December 15, the Japanese Diet passed a law to legalize casinos in the country, opening way for projects combining gambling with hotels, shopping, and conference spaces. The first proposal for this law was submitted in 2013, and again last year. While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling party support the bill, claiming that casinos will stimulate the Japanese economy and increase tourism, opposition parties are critical. This bill had failed repeatedly in previous parliaments to come up for a vote due to concerns regarding gambling addiction and money laundering.
Critics also believe that these new casinos could have a negative impact on local neighborhoods, and citizens agree. When surveyed by public broadcaster NHK, 44% of Japanese respondents oppose the development of casinos while only 12% were in support. Despite this opposition, there is no doubt that the casinos will prove to be key international investment opportunities. International gaming companies including Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International, and Caesars Entertainment are all interested in opening casinos in Japan, but will have to battle for operating rights. Even domestically, companies such as game-machine maker Konami will stand to benefit from the new hospitality developments.
The Daiwa Research Institute estimated that as little as 3 casinos could generate $10 billion in net profit annually, which is equal to about 0.2% of Japan’s GDP. According to an IB Times article, the country could see as much as a $40 billion increase in annual revenue. Currently, gambling on horse, boat and bicycle racing, and the pinball-esque game “Pachinko” are already legal in Japan. Still, casinos have opened across Asia and Russian border areas which already attract traffic. In addition, the Chinese GDP drop could cut the number of Chinese tourists that the proponents of these Japanese casinos are hoping to attract.
There is definitely time to predict what the effects of these casinos will be, as it could be years before they are fully operational. They will likely not be in operation until 2022 to 2023 at the earliest, as legislation to cover regulation, tax rates, gambling addiction, and money laundering needs to be established. The locations of these casinos have yet to be decided, but Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka are currently the top candidates.