Casino Hopes Fading in Japan

Despite an announcement by the Innovation Group that it had been tapped to advise Japan’s nascent casino industry, government officials insist there is no imminent plan to approve casino legislation. Hopes had been high for at least one integrated resort to open for the 2020 Olympics.

Consultant announcement premature

Will they or won’t they? Speculation had been high that the government of Japan would approve a casino bill this year so one or more resorts could be developed in time for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

But a premature announcement by a U.S. consulting firm that it would serve as advisor to the industry has government officials scrambling to quash the talk. According to GGRAsia, there was no time in the last session of Japan’s parliament for the bill to be considered. Since then, politicians “appear to have distanced themselves from any direct involvement in preparatory work” ahead the bill, which would legalize integrated resorts with casinos.

In February, the Innovation Group announced that it had been selected as “an industry advisor for the project team chosen by the Cabinet Secretariat of Japan to complete a comprehensive research study corresponding to the proposed integrated resort legislation.”

The company quickly retracted that assertion in a statement three days later, saying, “The Innovation Group erred in implying that it was engaged directly by the Cabinet Secretariat of Japan, that the Cabinet Secretariat supports gaming legislation, and that legislation is pending. Any positions … attributed to the Cabinet, the Cabinet Secretariat or Japanese officials were made in error and do not represent the current policy of those agencies. The Innovation Group regrets these errors.”

An unnamed source told GGRAsia that “certain officials” have engaged with the U.S. group to study casinos. The source added, “The IR issue is rather political and the ruling party and Cabinet do not want to have the IR issue seen as being authorized before the passage of the bill?particularly before the general election of the local government to be held in mid-April.”

Union Gaming Research analyst Grant Govertsen believes the Japanese government, “or at least the Diet” (parliament),” is once again “preparing to launch a push to move forward with a gaming/IR bill at some point this year.”

“However,” he added, “given various sensitivities associated with gaming expansion, we suspect that at the Cabinet level, the Prime Minister would not want to go any further than he already has for the time being, namely his endorsement last summer of the IR concept in general.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a casino booster and says such development would boost tourism, create jobs and generate new taxes. According to a recent report in Reuters, some members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party hope to resubmit the IR Bill to the Committee on Land and Transport, a lesser committee that also has the authority to pass the legislation.

“As long as the ruling coalition can agree and win support, it doesn’t matter which committee it’s submitted to,” LDP lawmaker Takeshi Iwaya told Reuters.

According to, analysts say Japan could become the world’s third-biggest gambling market after Macau and the US.In recent months, global gaming operator MGM Resorts International presented its plan for an integrated resort in Japan. Company President Bill Hornbuckle said the proposed Osaka resort would be “a landmark destination attraction, uniquely Japanese, not a copy of an integrated resort from Las Vegas or Singapore.”

And Las Vegas Sands Corp. honcho Sheldon Adelson has said he’s willing to spend “whatever it takes” to build a resort in Japan. “Would I put in $10 billion? Yes,” Adelson told reporters during an investor seminar in Tokyo. “Would I rather do it at seven? Yes.”