Japan Losing Momentum?

With lawmakers dawdling over the second part of required casino legislation and a corruption scandal swirling around Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (l.), the push to bring integrated resorts to Japan is slowing down.

Japan Losing Momentum?

Some say resorts not likely until 2026

Japan’s nascent casino industry could be worth $25 billion per year based on two integrated resorts and 10 regional casinos in an established market. So said CSLA Securities analyst Jay Defibaugh, panelist the recent ASEAN Gaming Summit. Spectrum Gaming Group Managing Director Fred Gushin put the market at $30 billion to $35 billion in 10 to 15 years. And other analysts have forecast annual income of up to $40 billion.

But the country may not see its first integrated resort anytime soon—possibly not until 2026. Regulations—including the tax rate, the number and size of casinos, the level of foreign ownership, addiction remediation measures, possible entry fees for locals and other details—still have to be put into place. The Buddhist-influenced Komeito and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party cannot seem to agree on how to structure the regulations.

The loss of public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, dogged by reports linking him and his wife to a shady land sale, also could be an inhibiting factor. Jiji Press reported “a sense of crisis” among government and ruling coalition officials in Japan.

“The slide in support is casting dark clouds over Abe’s goals of revising the country’s constitution and winning reelection as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in autumn, as government and coalition officials have few ideas about how to recover public support for the cabinet,” according to the Jiji report. It also could put a damper on casino legislation, heavily promoted by Abe as a means to boost tourism.

On March 16, demonstrators rallied in front of the prime minister’s office in Tokyo to call for a thorough investigation of the Finance Ministry over its altering of official records around the land sale.They called for the resignations of Abe and his cabinet, and said they were planning other demonstrations.

The rally followed news that the Finance Ministry altered official documents detailing transactions concerning state-owned land that was sold to school operator Moritomo Gakuen for a fraction of its appraised value.

The Japan Times notes that the “Teflon prime minister” may have a hard time weathering this storm, and it could have an enduring impact on his pet casino project.