Monday October 7,2013 : JAPAN MOVING CLOSER TO LEGALISED LAND GAMBLING
Could online legalization be far behind?
Far-horizon planning by online gambling strategists may have to incorporate a significant Japanese dimension soon as politicians in that country move closer to legalising land gambling, and with it the possibility of online regulation at some future point.
Reuters reports that moves to introduce a land casino legalization bill are gathering momentum after more than a decade of lobbying by lawmakers in the populous nation. The market has the potential to be the second-largest in the world, and the stakes are high.
A bill to legalise casino gambling is seen as having a good chance of passing in the coming months with the business-friendly Liberal Democratic Party in power, the news agency reports.
The proposal currently being developed would see the establishment of an independent gaming regulator modelled on the Las Vegas and Singapore regimes. The proposal considers measures to minimise problem and underage gambling, along with precautions against the involvement of organised crime and criminal elements, and money laundering.
Personal and business records going back ten years will be demanded from prospective operators, and the agency charged with policing casinos would be attached to the Cabinet and not be part of any ministry as a precaution against corruption and the “amakudari” practice of ministry officials retiring to cushy posts in the industry they once regulated.
“The hurdles to enter the business should be set high. It should not be easy for anyone to get a license and participate in the industry,” the policy plan declares. “With proper regulation and enforcement of the law, there is absolutely no reason for casinos to become hotbeds of criminal activity.”
MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas Sands Corp, Melco Crown Entertainment and Wynn Resorts Ltd are among the global operators that have shown keen interest in developing casino resorts in Japan.
Parliamentarians intend to submit the bill before the end of 2013 with a view to passage early in 2014, after which government would have a two year window to implement the political requirements.
The bill is said to enjoy the support of a number of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Observers say that following that timetable, casino resorts could be opened in mid-2019, when Japan hosts the Olympics.
Reuters reports that while the big global gaming operators have shown the most interest in the major urban hubs of Tokyo and Osaka, there are more than a dozen smaller cities and towns across Japan lobbying for the right to develop casino resorts.