Gaming | Japan striving to ensure IRs produce minimal negative effects

With Japan opening its doors to integrated resort operators to bid for one of three licenses across the country, an industry expert has said that the land of the rising sun is serious about putting in place stricter gambling laws to reduce the occurrence of casino-related crimes in the country.
Niall Sean Murray, chairman of consulting firm Murray International said that Japan is striving to ensure that the integrated resorts do not bring the criminal behaviors often associated with gambling.
“They are concerned about ensuring that organized crime, money laundering and other criminal activities don’t happen,” said Murray during an event organized by the French Macau Chamber of Commerce yesterday.
“[The authorities] are going to safeguard and ensure that they will do everything possible [to make sure] that this is a positive thing for the economy and that it has minimal negative effects,” the expert added.
Currently, Japan is looking at gambling laws around the world in different jurisdictions to see how to implement the strictest laws, and put together their laws with the strictest clauses.
The government is looking to Singapore as it considers the creation of even tighter regulations to ensure that that there would be a minimal negative effect on the public once these integrated resorts are in place.
Commenting on Macau’s gambling rules, Murray remarked, “Macau has good rules in place. They could get tighter and stricter in some areas. That should be reviewed before the license renewals. Perhaps newer laws [could] be considered.”
According to Murray, Beijing’s control on the number of mainland tourists coming to Macau is set to protect the SAR from any competition once the integrated resorts open in Japan.
“We still have a huge dependence on our visitation from mainland China. Luckily inbound tourism is controlled by Beijing, it decides who gets out and who doesn’t and where they can go,” said Murray.
“The penetration rate in Japan is so low and it’s still a long way to go. […] I think we’ve got many more years to enjoy our friendship with the mainland,” he added.
It is not yet known which Japanese municipalities will be given the chance to host one of the three integrated resorts, however Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka are possible frontrunners, with some experts predicting Osaka may be the first to be given the green light.
In Macau, all six gaming operators have expressed an interest in bidding for a Japanese license, but only two remain interested in Osaka – MGM Resorts and Galaxy Entertainment Group. Macau’s other operators said they preferred alternative locations for their possible foray into Japan.
Questioned by the Times on which gaming operator will most likely win a license, Murray said it would depend on their Japanese partners, who are likely to play a crucial role in the process.
“It’s hard to tell. Depends on the city and depends on what they’re willing to offer and put together. Each city would need a little something different,” Murray said.
“If they don’t have the right partners, I don’t believe they’re going to win the bid because it’s a very political process and working [as an] operator in Japan has a very defined set of processes they have to follow and they need to understand that,” the consultant added.
Currently, Japan has met some of its targets in the timelines, but not others as they are finding difficulties that they did not envision throughout the process.
“It’s going to be a learning curve and during that development process, it may cause some delays but they want to do it right not just fast,” he said.
“Although Osaka is really pushing to be open before the World Expo in 2025, other jurisdictions are not under the same pressure so they may take more time to do it,” he added. “They’re really focused on getting it right and getting the process correct.”
Murray advised that local bidders should make sure their proposal fits what the prefecture is looking for and are keen to show that they are willing to work with the government for the success of the city.

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