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Thursday, 8th December 2016
In Business In Japan,

Could Japan become the next gambling powerhouse?

A long-established ban on casinos in Japan could soon be lifted, opening the doors to widespread gambling throughout the country.

The issue of whether or not to legalise casinos has been debated in Japan for years, with many believing concerns over gambling addiction and possible involvement of organised crime groups outweighing any benefits.

Now, a controversial bill has been tabled and it took just 15 minutes to be passed through the lower house, despite several members walking out in protest prior to casting a vote.

The legislation just needs to be agreed by the upper house in order to come into effect and it is thought this is also likely to be a swift process.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) controls the upper house and has been a long-time supporter of casinos since coming to power.

He believes they could be the answer to boosting the economy, attracting investment in the country and supporting tourism.

Even if the bill goes through the upper house unimpeded, there would be no casinos opening immediately, as a plan would need to be put in place and issues such as licensing addressed.

This has not stopped some of the big players, such as MGM, Wynn and Las Vegas Sands from showing an interest, however.

It is clear to them that Japan is the last big untapped market for casinos in Asia, with its wealthy population and proximity to China all upping the stakes.

Jay Defibaugh, a senior research analyst at CLSA, a leading brokerage firm, said in a report: “The world's leading operators regard Japan as a holy grail given the potential market size.

“Gambling industries in Japan, including pachinko and public gambling, such as horse racing, car racing, bicycle racing and boat racing, already generate in excess of US$30 billion (£23.7 billion) in gross gaming revenue.”

Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka are likely to be among destinations chosen for major resorts featuring casinos if the law is changed.

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