- Casinos became legal in Japan in 2016, with casino resorts following suit in 2018
- Three casino resort licenses are up for grabs
- The government has given the green light for new regulations on the resort casino sector
- It is also looking at innovative ways to curb gambling addiction
Legalizing resort casinos
For many years, Japan was against expanding its gambling laws. But it saw nearby Macau thriving and becoming the leading gambling destination in the world. Eventually, following over a decade’s worth of debates on the issue, the government legalized casinos in 2016.
Two years later, at the end of the 2018 legislative session, casino resorts also got the green light. In total, three resort casino licenses are up for grabs.
The first casino was set to open in 2020 but there have been public concerns and regulatory issues. Therefore, the opening date has been put back.
The bidding process for the three casino resort licenses has not yet begun. The first step will be to select the three cities or regions that will get the licenses. Then those cities would choose which operators they want to deal with to develop the casinos.
Most global casino companies will have an interest in obtaining a license. They would be pumping billions of dollars into the development of the casino, creating a large number of jobs in the process.
It looks almost certain that Osaka will get one of the licenses. The city is already a tourism hub and is hosting the World Expo in 2025.
MGM Resorts International is already banking on Osaka getting a license. It has set up offices in the city and partnered with a local financial services firm to try and win the license.
MGM has former governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, on board to help with the bidding process. He has a lot of experience with the casino sector, as well as with dealing with politicians. He has been to Japan on previous trade trips, so he has a sense of how things work in the country.
Government approves casino resort regulations
The cabinet of Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has approved new regulations for the casino resorts. They will be a major source of new revenue for the government. The first of these casinos will likely be open by 2024.
Building the casino resorts will massively boost tourism revenues in the country, which will consequently rival Macau as a premier gambling destination in Asia.
Regulations concerning the parameters of the resorts were set in stone on March 26. There is a requirement for each of the three hotels to have enough guest rooms to cover at least 100,000 square meters.
There must also be a sufficiently large exhibition and convention center on each site. The casino area cannot be more than 3% of the total size of the resort. The only places where the casino resorts can advertise will be at Japan’s cruise ship terminals, international airports and terminals.
The operators of these casinos will need to submit a report to the government for any player who makes a transaction of at least 1m yen ($9,000) or greater in cash.
Concerns about gambling addiction
There has been a lot of outcry about legalizing casinos in Japan. Many opposition politicians and the public believe the move will lead to increasing numbers of gambling addicts.
However, the government is planning to implement a number of different innovative methods to combat this. For example, it is planning to introduce facial recognition technology at gambling facilities.
This would identify people registered in the problem gambler database when they try to enter a facility. The government also proposes to eliminate ATM cash machines from the floors of casinos. It plans to roll out these measures in 2020.
Gambling addicts would be able to sign up for a system that would curtail the amount of money they could spend at gambling facilities. There will also be clinics set up in major cities across the country dedicated to helping prevent and treat gambling addiction.
Soon, the authorities will conduct a new survey to examine external issues relating to problem gambling, such as debt, suicide, poverty, abuse, and crime.
There will be more education in schools about the pitfalls of gambling and the National Police Agency will be embarking on a mission to crack down on illegal gambling operations. Once these measures come into place, they will be reviewed every three years.