It is not expected that Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike will make her stance known as to whether she is in support of an integrated casino resort, before the gubernatorial elections in July 2020.
As in all 47 prefectures in Japan, governors are chosen in terms of four years. Koike won the 2016 election to become Tokyo’s first female governor after Naoki Inose’s resignation following a political fundraising scandal.
Three licences for integrated casino resort properties are being issued by Japan. This week, the federal government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed former Director of Defense Minister Michio Kitamura to head the five-member Casino Management Committee (CMC) of the nation, which will be responsible for deciding the winning bids.
Between January 20 and February 2020, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will hold a series of closed-door meetings with possible casino consortia. The discussions were called the “Tokyo Bay Area Vision,” and clearly the deliberation of an IR is mentioned.
In an effort to make Japan a more attractive tourist destination, Abe and his controlling Liberal Democratic Party are legalising commercial casinos. But there are plenty of opponents in the mission.
Although gambling has been banned for decades in Japan, pachinko has not fallen within the definition of gambling. Parlors of Pachinko are spread throughout the state.
Pachinko is like an inverted pinball game, where the ball bounces down to a location that leads to prizes. Players in the parlours can’t win money, but often neighbouring stores accept cash prizes.
In the “World Count of Gaming Machines” of the Gaming Technologies Association, the study concluded that Japan is home to the world’s most legitimate gaming machines (they identify pachinko machines as gambling, although not Technically).
Many Japanese citizens are already addicted to pachinko, critics of integrated resorts are concerned, and new gambling will only lead to further problems. Conservative candidates like Koike in 2020 are therefore reluctant to lend their support to the casinos.
The largest casino operators in the world are jockeying to gain licences in Japan. The front runners are Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts, two firms with vast IR business experience and international operations.
The aim of Sands is on Tokyo. During the third-quarter call last month, COO Rob Goldstein announced that the total investment could be as much as $12 billion. That would make it the largest development project for the casino giant.
Nevertheless, Goldstein acknowledged that the gigantic price tag makes “you stop and pinch yourself and say’ Can you get the returns your stakeholders deserve?'”
Sands is the owner and operator of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, along with The Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas and its multi-billion-dollar casinos in China’s Macau. It was the most expensive standalone casino property in the world when it opened in 2010, at a total cost of $8 billion.