Market Overview

Could Japan Be Asia's New $40 Billion Gaming Hub?

Could Japan Be Asia's New $40 Billion Gaming Hub?
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The massive potential casino gambling market in Japan has been a widely debated topic for years, and the debate will soon be heating up again in the Japanese parliament after a new casino bill was introduced last week.

The new bill, which replaces a previous casino bill that was withdrawn in December when parliament was dissolved, will lay the groundwork for a parliamentary discussion on the ramifications of opening the country up to the construction of gaming mega-resorts.

Abe Needs Help

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an outspoken supporter of allowing casinos in Japan, cannot push the bill through parliament without help. According to Bloomberg, Abe will likely need to convince the Buddhist-backed Komeito Party to support the bill before it could make it through the upper chamber of parliament.

Komeito leadership has not been fully sold on the idea of casino legalization in the past. In November of last year, Komeito party member Natsuo Yamaguchi was vocal about the potential drawbacks to legalizing casinos.

Potential Harm

Although there are no legal casinos in Japan, betting on horse, boat and bicycle racing is legal. According to a study conducted by a health ministry panel, about 5 percent of Japan’s population is addicted to gambling.

$40 Billion Opportunity

If the casino bill gets approved by parliament, a new Japanese casino industry could generate an estimated $40 billion in annual gaming revenue, about six times the revenue generated by the Las Vegas Strip.

In the past, several of the major global casino players have pledged to make strong pushes into Japan if casinos were legalized there.

In the past, Las Vegas Sands Corp (NYSE: LVS), MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM), Wynn Resorts Ltd (NASDAQ: WYNN), Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd (NASDAQ: MPEL) and Caesars Entertainment Corp (NASDAQ: CZR) have all discussed committing billions of dollars to Japan.

Disclosure: the author owns shares of Melco Crown Entertainment.

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