National

Cabinet approval of casino bill welcomed in Osaka by politicians and international casino operators

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

The Cabinet’s approval Friday of a bill establishing a framework for integrated resorts, including casinos, was met with praise from Osaka politicians and international casino operators.

Osaka lawmakers and operators met at a related trade show in the city, where expectations are high that it will host one of Japan’s first casino resort complexes.

“We haven’t seen anything in the Japanese casino legislation that isn’t manageable,” said Geoffrey Davis, chief executive officer of Melco Resorts & Entertainment Japan Ltd., which expressed an early interest in Osaka and is considered to be one of the leading candidates to operate an integrated resort in the Kansai metropolis.

Ed Bowers, representative officer and CEO for MGM Resorts Japan LLC, which is considered to be the other leading candidate to operate an Osaka resort, said he is comfortable with the legislation that was approved Friday, but that it is important to think about the long-term financial benefits of integrated resorts to the local economy when deciding the initial investment structure.

“The more that is invested in infrastructure, the less that can be invested in the integrated resort,” Bowers said at the showcase, held at Grand Front Osaka, where six casino operators participated to build momentum to establish an entertainment complex in the city.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet approved the bill but with his administration currently being rocked by scandals and opposition parties boycotting Diet proceedings, the government’s goal of legislative approval for the bill by the time the current session ends on June 20 could prove to be difficult.

Still, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui expressed relief over the decision at the event, calling it the culmination of discussions he and former Mayor and Gov. Toru Hashimoto began 10 years ago.

“(We discussed) the need to strengthen Osaka’s tourism sector by introducing integrated resorts. Everybody said then it couldn’t happen and there was a lot of opposition, especially in the media, to our idea,” Matsui said.

Under the bill, people living in Japan will be charged a ¥6,000 entrance fee, while foreign visitors will be able to enter for free. Japan residents will be restricted from entering the casinos more than three times per week and 10 times per month.

The proposed legislation initially permits casino facilities to operate in up to three locations across the nation.

A total of 30 percent of the casino’s revenue will be taxed, half of which will be shared with local governments and municipalities. The floor space of the casino will be capped at 3 percent of the total area of the resort.

Japan’s rules and regulations for customers at integrated resorts are based on those of Singapore, which are, compared to other countries, quite strict. However, it was not something those in Osaka expressed a great deal of concern about.

Osaka’s plans call for a facility on Yumeshima, an artificial island in Osaka Bay.

Key to casino operator concerns is to what extent the Osaka Prefectural Government and municipalities attempt to negotiate an agreement that obligates them to help fund transportation infrastructure projects linking other parts of the city with Yumeshima. Osaka also hopes the island will be the main site for a successful 2025 World Expo bid. The winning bid will be decided later this year.

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